New labels to help ID added sugars

176774860Next month, I want to try to cut added sugars from my diet, but I’m confused when I look at the Nutrition Facts labels. For example, sliced fruit packed in juice seems to have a lot of sugar. How can I tell if it’s added sugar or just the natural sugars from the fruit and juice?

First, good for you for paying attention to added sugars in your diet. On average, Americans consume about 16 percent of their daily calories from sugars added during food production and processing, during cooking, or from the sugar bowl at the table. The nation’s Dietary Guidelines have recommended decreasing the amount of added sugars in the diet for years.

To answer your question, though, if the label says “100 percent juice,” there are no added sugars in the beverage.

This can get confusing because many food items that are labeled “100 percent juice” also list “fruit juice concentrate” on the ingredients label. Fruit juice concentrate is natural fruit juice with most of the water removed. If it’s not reconstituted — that is, if the same amount of water isn’t restored — then the concentrate is so sweet that it is considered an added sugar. But in order to claim “100 percent juice” on a label, the Food and Drug Administration says a food manufacturer must add as much water to a concentrated juice as appears in the original juice.

On the current Nutrition Facts labels, to find added sugars in foods, you need to examine the food ingredient listing and know to look for words like high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, dextrose or even honey. See a complete list of added sugars here: bit.ly/addedsugarslist.

But in March, the FDA proposed changing the Nutrition Facts label to clearly separate added sugars from other sugars. This way, consumers can tell at a glance if a product has added sugars, and how much. You can see the proposed new Nutrition Facts label at bit.ly/newlabel.

The World Health Organization recently drafted a recommendation for people to limit consumption of added sugars to as low as 5 percent of calories. That recommendation includes even 100 percent fruit juice. Although many other nutrition authorities don’t consider 100 percent fruit juice to be an added sugar, most recommend eating whole fruit rather than drinking just the juice. Juice lacks dietary fiber, and it’s easy to consume in excess, contributing extra calories.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus

Be sure produce is washed properly

459932801My wife always rinses packaged lettuce that’s marked as prewashed. She said it sometimes smells funny so she likes to rinse it off. If it smells funny, should we eat it? And is washing it necessary?

Prewashed lettuce in a sealed bag sometimes accumulates carbon dioxide, and you might notice a slight odor when you first open the bag. It should dissipate quickly and doesn’t indicate any health risk.

Be sure to read the label. Don’t assume that prepackaged produce is prewashed. If it is, you’re right — there’s no reason to wash it again. But if you can’t resist, just be sure you do so properly. It would be ironic if, in trying to be doubly safe by washing prewashed produce, you ended up contaminating it by doing so sloppily.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers guidelines for selecting and serving raw produce at http://bit.ly/rawproduce, and food safety experts with Colorado State University Extension offer additional tips at http://bit.ly/ColoStateFreshProduce. Here’s what experts say about washing raw fruits and vegetables:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw produce, and also clean counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water.
  • Generally, it’s best to wait to wash fresh produce until just before you plan to eat it, because the additional moisture may encourage the growth of bacteria and speed spoilage. If you see dirt on produce and want to wash it before storage, use clean paper towels to dry it thoroughly afterward.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating. Does the produce look rotten? Use common sense and throw it away.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. The running water helps to dislodge dirt and bacteria and wash it away. Experts do not recommend washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent, as produce is porous and could absorb the chemicals in them, or using commercial produce washes.
  • Even bananas should be rinsed off under cool running water just before eating, say experts from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
  • For other produce with a firm skin or rind, use a vegetable brush under running water before cutting into it, even if you plan on peeling it. This will reduce the chance that any dirt or microorganisms on the surface would be transferred to the portion you’ll be eating.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.