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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched a consultation on its draft protocol for its scientific opinion on free sugars. The protocol responds to five member states' request seeking "a science-based cut-off value for a daily exposure to added sugars from all sources (i.e. sucrose, fructose, glucose, starch hydrolysates such as glucose syrup, high-fructose syrup and other isolated sugar preparations used as such or added during food preparation and manufacturing) which is not associated with adverse health effects." EFSA will not accept comments "related to policy or risk management aspects, which are out of the scope of EFSA's activity." Comments will be accepted until March 4, 2018.

Responding to pressure from health groups, the government and consumer demand, food companies have been reducing levels of sugar and salt in their foods, the Washington Post reports, but levels of saturated fats in the updated recipes for these reduced-salt or -sugar foods have surged. The Post cites a November 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that purportedly found a significant rise in saturated fats in four of the five food categories examined—cereals, yogurts, snacks and frozen/refrigerated meals showed increases, although candy did not—while the same categories largely showed decreases in salt and sugar. Food scientists who formulate products with reduced sugar and salt told the Post that decreasing one nutrient often results in increases for others to account for the weight and volume lost, especially when less of the replacement ingredient is required, such as the use of stevia to replace sugar. The author of the USDA report speculated that the rise…

Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging Mondelez International's Belvita breakfast foods are marketed to consumers interested in “health and wellness” but contain between 8 and 14 grams of added sugar per serving. McMorrow v. Mondelez Int’l, No. 17-2327 (S.D. Cal., filed November 16, 2017). The complaint asserts that the packaging and labeling claims are deceptively marketed to consumers as "healthy" but contribute to excess sugar consumption. Alleging violations of California’s consumer-protection laws and breach of warranties, the plaintiffs seek class certification, injunctive relief, corrective advertising, damages, restitution and attorney’s fees.

PLOS has published an article asserting that in 1970, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) terminated its funding of research into the health risks of sugar and did not publish the research results. C. Kearns, et al., “Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents,” PLOS Biology, November 21, 2017. Echoing a September 2016 JAMA article also from the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, the article reportedly claims the research showed that sugar increased high triglyceride levels and was a possible carcinogen.

The Scottish Government is seeking public comment on a consultation that proposes actions to improve diet and reduce obesity in Scotland. The government previously announced funding of more than $55 million over five years to limit the marketing of food high in fat, sugar and salt and provide weight-loss support for people with type 2 diabetes. The consultation, which is open through January 31, 2018, asks questions about promotions and marketing, “out of home” or restaurant eating, labeling, product reformulation and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages or similar products. Scotland is also considering proposals to limit “junk food” advertising and provide support for small and mid-sized food manufacturers to reformulate and develop healthier products.

A California federal court will allow to proceed a suit alleging that Kellogg’s breakfast cereals and bars are unhealthy because of excess added sugars, finding that the labeling and packaging of 24 named products “contain at least one statement that is not preempted, non-misleading or puffery as a matter of law.” Hadley v. Kellogg Sales Co., No. 16-4955 (N.D. Cal., entered August 10, 2017). The court rejected Kellogg’s argument that the company accurately disclosed the ingredients of its products and complied with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling guidelines. The court also found that because FDA “expressly decided” not to set a level for sugar that would disqualify a product from making health or nutrient-content claims, any allegation that Kellogg’s product labeling was misleading because of a certain amount of added sugar was preempted by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. However, the court refused to preempt a claim…

A plaintiff’s “cursory, formulaic recitation” of her purchase of Jelly Belly Candy Co.'s Sport Beans did not include enough factual allegations to establish a claim for relief, a California federal court has ruled. Gomez v. Jelly Belly Candy Co., No. 17-­0575 (C.D. Cal., order entered June 8, 2017). The plaintiff had alleged the candy maker’s use of the term “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) on the packaging misled her about the product's sugar content. Additional details on the complaint appear in Issue 629 of this Update. “Absent from the Complaint are any factual allegations concerning the circumstances of Gomez’s purchase of the product, how she intended to use the product, whether she in fact expected a sugar-free product, whether she thought ‘evaporated cane juice’ was juice as opposed to sugar, and whether she consumed the product,” the court said, granting Jelly Belly's motion to dismiss. However, the court ruled that Gomez…

A Pennsylvania appeals court has upheld Philadelphia’s tax on the distribution of sugar-­sweetened beverages (SSBs), rejecting arguments that it is a duplicate sales tax or is preempted by state tax laws. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, Nos. 2077, 2078 (Pa. Commonwealth Ct., order entered June 14, 2017). The court held that the subject matter of the tax—the non-­retail distribution of SSBs—is “distinct” from the sales tax collected when the beverages are sold to a retail purchaser, and thus the distribution tax is not duplicative of an existing tax. In addition, the court said, the tax is not preempted under state law because Pennsylvania cities have the right to tax transactions that are not already subject to state tax or license fees. Nor is it preempted by the federal Food Stamp Act or related tax laws because the tax is levied on the distributors of SSBs and “no recipient of program…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will postpone the deadline for food companies to use a revised Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and beverages that includes added­-sugar content and emphasizes calorie content. The FDA guidance document on the changes was updated to note that it received feedback from industry and consumer groups about the compliance dates. "As a result, the FDA intends to extend the compliance dates to provide the additional time for implementation," the guidance documents states. "The framework for the extension will be guided by the desire to give industry more time and decrease costs, balanced with the importance of minimizing the transition period during which consumers will see both the old and the new versions of the label in the marketplace."   Issue 638

A study examining the health effects of sugary and artificially sweetened beverages has allegedly concluded that consumption of the latter was associated with an increased risk of stroke and dementia. Matthew P. Pase et al., “Sugar­ and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia,” Stroke, May 2017. Based on data from more than 4,000 adults enrolled in Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort, the study followed health outcomes for 10 years and purportedly accounted for confounding factors such as “age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), caloric intake, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking.” The results apparently suggested that, when compared to those who abstained from artificially sweetened beverages, participants who imbibed up to six servings per day were at greater risk of stroke or dementia, with the strongest associations for ischemic stroke. “To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily…

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