FDA Urged To Limit Soft Drink Sugar Levels
February 14, 2013

Petition Urges FDA To Limit Sugar Levels

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Consumer groups, scientists, and health-advocacy organizations recently urged the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider determining safe limits of high-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar in soft drinks, as high levels could affect the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

In particular, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) helped spearhead the effort to urge the FDA to consider safe level of sugars in beverages. CSPI stated that a 20-ounce bottle of soda has approximately 16 teaspoons of sugar from high-fructose corn syrup, which is double the daily limit advised by the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA has recommended that individuals should consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugars a day for women and no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar for men. As such, CSPI scientists noted that diet sodas are much safer than the full-calorie sodas. The organization´s proposal is also supported by public health departments in cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

"As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption," explained Michael F. Jacobson, who serves as the executive director of CSPI, in a prepared statement. "Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease."

With a 54-page regulatory petition, the group aims to provide scientific evidence that highlights the impact of added sugars on the development of chronic diseases, obesity, and weight gain.

"If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks," remarked Walter Willett, who is an expert in nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in the statement. "The evidence is so strong that it is essential that FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer."

The petition also asks the FDA to consider a level of sugar that would be safe in beverages and require that the limits be implemented in the next few years. While the petition does not include a specific safe level, the CSPI stated that a number of health agencies found that 10 grams/two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar was reasonably healthy. Some soda companies may have anticipated the changes, and are working to adjust their products if a specific level on sugar was to be instated.

"You will see Pepsi and Coke and Dr Pepper coming up with a whole variety of no-calorie sweeteners," Harold Honickman, the CEO of a major East Coast Pepsi bottler, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I honestly think that you will find 'regular' Pepsi, 'regular' Coke with new kinds of sweeteners. They will be better-tasting drinks than we have today."

Others do not agree with the position of the petition.

"If we start blaming one component of the diet for something as complicated as obesity, I think that's a slippery slope," commented Dr. James Rippe, the Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle institute and a professor of biomedical sciences at the university of Central Florida, in an article by USA Today.

"It's emotionally attractive to blame added sugars for obesity, but if we go in this direction, it will prevent us from looking at the total diet to solve obesity. Even if we made drastic cuts in the amount of added sugars in our diet, I believe people would find other ways of over-consuming calories."

The American Beverage Association also released a statement on the petition:

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity levels — a fact completely ignored in this petition. This is why the beverage industry has worked to increase options and information for consumers,” wrote the organization. “We look forward to working with all interested parties in making further strides in bringing down obesity levels and helping consumers make informed decisions for themselves and their families.”