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13-02-2013 | Article

FDA under pressure from all sides to act on sugary drinks


CSPI petition

medwireNews: The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) along with leading experts and various health-advocacy organizations nationwide have sent a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to insist that the department takes the problem of excessive sugar consumption in America seriously, and settles on safe limits of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars in soft drinks.

One typical 20-ounce bottle of soda packs approximately twice the amount of sugar that the American Heart Association recommends for daily intake, which is between 6 and 9 teaspoons. Altogether, soda and other sugar drinks are the biggest source of calories for Americans, who consume around 20 teaspoons of added sugar everyday - with a fifth of adolescents gaining 25% of their calories from added sugar.

"Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," CSPI executive director, Michael Jacobson, said in a press release. "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."

Currently, the FDA gives high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and other sugars a "GRAS" classification, or "generally recognized as safe" at levels that are currently being consumed. This categorization defines the essence of the current, multi-representational petition, which counters that the current scientific consensus is that added sugars are actually unsafe at the levels at which they are being consumed.

The 54-page regulatory petition poses actionable steps to the FDA that would first entail quantifying an amount of added sugars that would be safe in beverages, and subsequently phasing in those limits over a few years. While not specifying an amount, the petition mentions 2.5 teaspoons of sugar as an amount that numerous health agencies have come to consider as a healthy limit in drinks.

"In 1982 and again in 1988, the FDA committed to undertake a new safety determination if sugar consumption increased, or if new scientific evidence indicated a public health hazard," noted a CSPI press release. "Both of those conditions have been met, which… obligates the FDA to act."

Already, "sweetness enhancers" are being developed while soda manufacturers, such as Pepsi, are considering various low-calorie sweeteners to replace higher calorie sugars in popular drinks in the near future.

In the meantime, local and state health departments have acted by restricting soda serving sizes at various establishments, such as in New York City, while letting the public know about the harms of drinking soda.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter