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The Sweet Truth: New York City Mandates Sugar Labelling

New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed a new restaurant regulation into law last week. It’s not about sanitation or gloving. Or even excess salt. It’s called The Sweet Truth Act, and it forces chain restos to publish the sugar content of their wares…

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This is, as you may have suspected, a first among Western World municipalities. Probably the first such mandate anywhere. The Act gives affected restos several months to come into compliance. But it’s already throwing curves at resto operators…

The deal…

According to Food and Drink: “The bill’s text states that restaurants with 15 or more locations will be required to, “conspicuously post added sugar icons and factual warning statements on menus or menu boards,” if those items have more than 50 grams of added sugar. Restaurants have one year to comply with the new law, or they will face a penalty of $200.”

“A $200 fine per infraction is not enough!” I can already hear healthy eating advocates protesting. That was my first, reflexive reaction, too. But the ‘$200’ threshold may be just enough to aggravate restos into compliance without ruining them financially. We’ll see. And remember, the fines could always be raised in future if they prove too low to ensure compliance.

Why the 50 g added sugar limit?

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) current guidelines recommend that adults limit their daily added sugar consumption to less than 10 percent of their total Calorie intake per day. So, if you eat the recommended 2,000 Calories per day, you should keep your consumption of added sugar to no more than 50 g. That’s 200 Calories.

“We see a major crisis in the city – and beyond it – when it comes to nutrition and obesity,” New York City Councilmember Keith Power told the Gothamist. “We are trying to make New Yorkers eat healthier and live healthier lifestyles.”

Power added, some NYC residents may exhaust their 50 g recommended daily allowance of added sugar with just one item they, “pick up on their morning commute.” That could be a coffee with two sugars and a plain glazed doughnut. Or one regular bagel, without topping. Or one 12 oz. / 355 ml can of sugar-sweetened soda.

Some hazy areas

Alas, resto operators may run into hazy areas when bringing their menus into0 compliance. One issue identified by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is difficulty determining the actual per-serving sugar content of some menu items. That’s a challenge both for resto operators and city officials tasked with enforcing the Sweet Truth Act.

Following the passage of the NYC bylaw, the CSPI has asked the FDA to require all US restaurants to make their added sugar information public.

My take

I’ve already interjected with my comments on the amount of the fine for lack of compliance with the new sugar-labelling law. That’s a big p0opser for me. The Food & Drink story doesn’t say how NYC Council arrived at that number.

Another factor effecting the eventual success of the bylaw will be how enthusiastically the public responds. Will folks use the new added-sugar info to their advantage? That going to be the real factor that determines how successful the measure ultimately is..

~ Maggie J.