Campaigners vow to cut sugar in food


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A campaign group has been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.

Action on Sugar has been set up by the team behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), which has pushed for cuts to salt intake since the 1990s.

The new group aims to help people avoid "hidden sugars" and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

It believes a 20% to 30% reduction in three to five years is within reach.

Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar bit by bit so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.

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Sugar in food
Heinz tomato soup

Well-known food and drink products and their sugar content:

  • Starbucks caramel frappuccino with whipped cream with skimmed milk (tall): 273kcal; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  • Coca Cola Original (330ml): 139kcal; 9 teaspoons of sugar
  • Muller Crunch Corner Strawberry Shortcake Yogurt (135g): 212kcal; 6 teaspoons of sugar
  • Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% Fat Vanilla Yogurt (150g): 120kcal; 5 teaspoons of sugar
  • Kellogg's Frosties with semi-skimmed milk (30g): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Glaceau Vitamin Water, Defence (500ml): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Heinz Classic Tomato Soup (300g): 171kcals; 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Ragu Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce (200g): 80kcals; 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Crunchy Oat Granola Cinnamon Bars (40g): 186kcal; 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup (15ml): 18kcal; 1 teaspoon of sugar

Source: Action on Sugar

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Sugar is a widespread presence in our food and it's often found in unexpected places,

It's probably no surprise that a can of cola contains nine teaspoons of sugar.

But some tins of tomato soup and bottles of flavoured water have four teaspoons of sugar crammed inside. And seemingly healthy fat-free yoghurt often has a high sugar content.

The NHS says most children and adults in the UK are consuming too much sugar.

The primary concern is obesity - being high in sugar means being high in calories.

Nearly two thirds of people in the UK are overweight or obese - leading to other health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Some argue that the problems with sugar are even deeper than the calorie content, and that high doses of the sweet stuff can increase the risk of diseases such as a fatty liver.

It says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease in a way that "is practical, will work and will cost very little".

'Completely unnecessary'

The group listed flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread as just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.

A favourite tactic of Cash has been to name and shame products with large quantities of salt.

Action on Sugar chairman Graham MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and set up Cash in 1996, said: "We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.

"This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods."

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: "Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety.

Coca Cola Europe boss James Quincey confronted by Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman in November 2013

"Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    It is made very difficult for the consumer to know which foods contain sugar as often all sorts of technical jargon is used to describe sugar or sugar substitutes. 85% of the sugar we eat is hidden and only 15% we add ourselves. Did you know that the average sugar consumption 100 years ago was just 5 bags a year and that it is now 60 bags? It is 1 of the biggest contributors to decline in health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    What I resent is the sugar found in all sorts of food like soups, sauces and so on, not just the obvious candidates.

    We made an effort to reduce sugar some years ago (home cooking) our food now tastes so much better.

    My wife blind tested a new Thorntons chocolate said they were vastly too sweet, much to the surprise of the tester.

    more sugar isn't better, just hides a lack of other ingredients

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    The biggest offenders are the 'Reduced fat' of 'Fat-Free' foods; if you take away the fat it has to be replaced with large amounts of sugar and/or salt to make the product palatable again. Fat really ISN'T as bad as the media & health campaigners will have you believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Sugar has a place in sweets, sweet biscuits and cakes. It doesn't have a place as a replacement for fat in "low-fat" products.

    Let's have sugar where it belongs but removed from the places where it doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Spouse recently diagnosed with T2 Diabetes, so we are checking calories and sugar diligently. Horrified by amount of sugar in prepared foods. Have decided to buy fresh ingredients only. Traffic light system doesn't work - I'd need to shop wearing reading glasses, and even then the chart is too small. Fruit juices are biggest puzzle - mustn't use those from concentrates.


Comments 5 of 6


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