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Thursday 30 July 2015

Sugar: Can we trust industry?

Imagine a kilo of sugar - the large bag that you might buy in a supermarket.

It's a lot, isn't it? But that's exactly how much sugar the average adult consumes in a fortnight. Teenagers have even more.

This is the reason why the sweet stuff is the new frontier in the campaign to get people to live healthier lives.

One of the problems is that it's often hidden in the foods we eat. While fizzy drinks and confectionery are obvious sources, you may be surprised to learn that tinned soups, salad dressing and tomato ketchup all contain pretty high levels of sugar.

Government advisers have recently suggested no more than 5% of daily calories should come from added sugar - half the level of the previous recommendation.

But that is going to be a tough ask. No age group was meeting the old guideline, never mind getting close to the new one.

The response of health campaigners has been to call for tougher regulation - and in particular a tax on sugary drinks.

This is understandable. A typical can of pop can contain the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar.

But the government does not seem to want to regulate, preferring to work in partnership with industry and pointing out many manufacturers and retailers have already started taking action.

Just this week Tesco announced it would stop selling high-sugar drinks specifically aimed at children, including certain types of Ribena and Capri-Sun.

While the move was widely welcomed, is it really wise to leave it to industry to help improve the health of the nation?

Of course the sector says yes. It points to the introduction of low-calorie and zero-calorie drinks - now accounting for half of all sales of fizzy drinks - and that the growth in bottled water is one of the fastest-growing areas of the drinks business.

The sugar problem

  • There has been growing concern about the damaging impact of sugar on health - from the state of people's teeth to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  • Sugar has been dubbed "empty calories" because it has no nutritional benefit.
  • Government advisers recommend that no more than 5% of daily calories should come from sugar.
  • That's about 25g (around six or seven teaspoons) for an adult of normal weight every day. For children it is slightly less.
  • The limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
  • To put this in context, a typical can of fizzy drink contains about nine teaspoons of sugar.

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Anonymous said...

Definitely a problem that needs addressing. I think the food companies will be slow to reduce the high amount of 'hidden' sugars. Sugar is not doing anyone's health any good. Obesity on the rise, Type 2 Diabetes on the rise and also a worsening in dental health. Should we start a campaign to just drink water?


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