New advice for European Union on added sugars due in 2020

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is on schedule to provide new scientific advice on the daily intake of added sugar in food by early 2020.

The Authority plans to establish a science-based cut-off value for daily exposure to added sugars from all sources that are not associated with adverse health effects. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have requested EFSA make the new finding.

Added sugars from all sources comprise sucrose, fructose, glucose, starch hydrolysates such as glucose syrup, high-fructose syrup, and other sugar preparations consumed as such or added during food preparation and manufacturing.

The adverse health effects under consideration will include body weight, glucose intolerance and insulin sensitivity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors, and dental disease. In its assessment, EFSA will look at the general healthy population, including children, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration recently completed a two-month comment period on  draft guidance that when finalized will deal with food industry compliance and the labeling of added sugars along with formatting for Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels.

The future advice from the European Authority will guide Member States of the European Union when establishing recommendations for the consumption of added sugars and in planning food-based dietary guidelines. Sweden is coordinating the request to EFSA on behalf of the five Nordic countries.

“We welcome EFSA’s acceptance of the mandate which reflects the need to scientifically evaluate the links between added sugar and health at a European level,” said Annica Sohlström, director general of the Swedish National Food Agency.

The plan for the plan
The EFSA will establish an ad-hoc working group with expertise in dietary exposure, epidemiology, human nutrition, diet-related chronic diseases and dentistry. The five Nordic countries that initiated this mandate will be invited to the working group as observers.

EFSA will use its established methodology to develop a protocol on how to carry out the assessment. Known as Prometheus – PROmoting METHods for Evidence Use in Scientific assessments – the method shows how EFSA selects evidence, how this evidence contributes to the risk assessment and how EFSA reports on the entire process and it results.

In line with its commitment to openness and transparency, EFSA will engage with stakeholders throughout the assessment process. It will hold two public consultations, inviting feedback on the draft protocol in the first half of 2018 and on the draft opinion in late 2019, which will also involve a face-to-face meeting with stakeholders.

Background
In 2010, EFSA published its Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for carbohydrates and dietary fiber, which also included sugar. At that time, the available evidence was insufficient to set an upper limit for the daily intake of total or added sugars. New scientific evidence has come to light since then. There has also been growing public interest in the impact of the consumption of sugar-containing foods and beverages on human health.

EFSA is a European agency funded by the European Union that operates independently of the European legislative and executive institutions – Commission, Council, Parliament – and EU Member States.
It was set up in 2002 following a series of food crises in the late 1990s to be a source of scientific advice and communication on risks associated with the food chain. The agency was legally established by the EU under the General Food Law.

The General Food Law created a European food safety system in which responsibility for scientific risk assessment and risk management policy are kept separate. EFSA is responsible for the former area, and also has a duty to communicate its scientific findings to the public.

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