Health groups push FDA to crack down on sugary drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages are considered “GRAS,” or generally recognized as safe by the FDA, but the petition argues that the agency should take another look.

The groups suggested that regulators consider a standard of no more than 10 grams of sugar in a beverage, which is recommended by many health experts.

Americans, on average, consume 18 to 23 teaspoons per day, according to CSPI, triple the recommended amount by the American Heart Association. Those amounts equal an additional 300 to 400 calories to a person’s diet.

Along with the petition, 41 nutritional experts and 20 health agencies and nonprofits signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg personally asking her to take up the issue.

Walter Willett, a Harvard University nutrition and epidemiology professor, signed the letter and released a statement in conjunction with CSPI’s petition.

"If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks," he said. "The evidence is so strong that it is essential that FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer."

While the petition urges the agency to also take action on sugary cereals and foods, non-alcoholic beverages — fruit drinks, teas, energy drinks and sodas — remain the largest source of sugar-based calories.

“About 14 million people of all ages consume more than one-third of their calories in the form of added sugars,” the group wrote.

The petition also urges the FDA to add a separate line for “added sugar” on nutrition labels and asks the agency to couple with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate consumers on the risks of sugars’ over-consumption.