The new label, first proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2016, adds a new line under the Total Carbohydrate category that details the amount of sugar that has been added on top of the sugars already contained in a food product.
If consumers had access to this new label, their food choices could prevent more than 350,000 cases of heart disease and nearly 600,000 cases of type 2 diabetes over the next two decades, researchers predicted using a computer model.
This would save the United States $31 billion in health care costs and $62 billion in productivity and other societal costs, said senior researcher Renata Micha. She's an associate research professor at the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in Boston.
These effects could be even stronger if the new Nutrition Facts label prompts food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar they add to products, Micha said.
"If this added sugar label prompts the food industry to reformulate even a portion of its products to have fewer added sugars, these health and financial benefits would be doubled, which is a staggering impact," Micha said.
Added sugars account for more than 15% of Americans' total daily calories, exceeding the recommended level of less than 10%, the researchers said in background notes.
It can be tough to recognize added sugars by looking at the list of ingredients on a label, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar and sucrose are just some of the many different ingredients that contribute added sugars to food, the CDC notes.
To make things simpler for consumers, the FDA proposed a new line on the Nutrition Facts label that totals up all these sources of added sugar. The line would note the number of grams of added sugar and the percentage they contribute to an average person's daily calorie count.