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 127.

    How about they stop messing with our food, swapping sugar that is bad for you with aspartame that is poisonous to many.

    Tell us what is in our food (including labelling GMO ingredients) and educate the masses as to what they should be eating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I'm generally for the "nanny state", but this doesn't make much sense. The fattest people I know - my aunt & uncle - are fat because he drinks a lot of beer & she eats nothing but crisps & chocolate, and neither ever do any exercise. Regulating the amount of sugar in ketchup isn't going to have any effect.
    I don't know what the solution is to obesity, but this proposal isn't the right answer.

  • 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 124.

    Processed food is ghastly stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Sounds like a reasonable approach. It would be helpful if the food industry would honestly label products instead of constantly trying to obstruct any useful labelling suggestion that is made (Co-op and Sanibury's are more helpful Asda and tesco are not)

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Education is paramount. A friend is regularly complaining she is unable to lose weight, but will sink 2 x 2ltr bottles of fizzy pop a day.

    I like the suggestion by Joe (see 18) - mark a bottle with the % sugar it contains in an eye-catching way and it may help some people accept how much they are actually consuming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    One of the main problems for people trying to keep to a reasonably healthy diet is the sugar added to processed food where you wouldn't put sugar in if you were making it yourself from scratch. I expect cakes, sweets and puddings to have sugar in but there is also a huge amount put in savoury items too. Clear labelling is the answer, then we can make our choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    22 : TuckInItsCustard "Such a waste using all that sugar in processed foods.... with just a little yeast and a bit of time it could all be turned into alcohol."

    For biofuel I presume - sounds like a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Just now

    The fact that everyday products like bread have sugar in is a disgrace"

    All of the starch in the bread will ultimately be converted into sugar by the body, for use as fuel.

    If you are overweight, eat less bread or do more exercise to burn off the energy in the bread.

    Talk of "added sugars" is mis-leading and total rubbish! The issue is total calorie intake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    If you want extra sugar on your cereal, just sprinkle a spoonful on, but if I want less how can I take it out?

    Regular breakfast cereals commonly have so much sugar that it comprises 20% or more of the contents. This is quite unnecessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    When are these idiots going to realise that we live in a democracy where you are free to choose what you eat and drink. If you don't want to eat these products, then eat or drink other products. Stop telling the rest of us what we can and cannot eat or drink as I for one would like to decide this by myself being an educated adult.
    Leave my sugar alone!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I am glad they are reducing sugar put hope they do not add sugar alternatives as they taste terrible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I think more worrying is the decline in nutrition and vitamins that is occurring in fruit/vegetables partly due to chemical exposure just to make them look more aesthetically appealing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Aspartame, the sugar "alternative" is far worse, causing obesity and 70 plus neurological problems from ADHD to brain tumours - just as unsaturated fats being "healthy" is a myth. I would rather stick with sugar - it is, after all one of the main preserving agents in most long shelf life product. Better still to grow your own and/or eat fresh. I agree with previous comments - choice is the issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    So. The amount of sugar in food is cut. The amount of artificial sweeteners is increased. Everyone's a winner - the food companies because sweeteners are cheaper, the campaigners because they've scored Nanny State points. Except the poor bloody consumers who can no longer buy the foods they like because they can't abide the taste of artificial sweeteners. Brilliant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Yet again,self appointed busy bodies interfere with individual choice and the individuals life. Their motto is 'we will determine what is right for you whether you want us to or not'. They are non democratic, they are communistic and dare I say it Maoist. If we do not comply what are they going to do, shuffle us off to thought camps for brainwashing and unpaid labour?

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    The pathetic thing about people who campaign about these things is that they are just looking for things to campaign against for the sake of it.
    The vast majority of us don't want these changes. If individuals are eating unhealthily then its their choice. The drive should be to change attitudes not pander to people ignorance by changing the world because a individuals refuse to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    With almost no exceptions, we can all read.

    Every food I've bought in the last lord knows how long has all the nutriciaonal information on the packaging, and states RDA and percentage thereof for each group, sugar included.

    The info is there for all to see. It's about time these saddos stopped intruding and let us decide what we eat. These people need to remember that no one lives forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    This campaign should be encouraged, as the corporate manufacturers are driven more by their profit motive rather than public good.

    In addition, schools and parents have a major role to play in educating children so that they are diet-aware and capable of creating healthy meals from scratch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    There should be a clear label on all foods showing the amount of sugar in teaspoons.

    Then people who keep gaining weight whilst guzzling 5 smoothies a day will have no excuse to complain that they did'nt realise that the popular fruity 'health' drinks contain far mor sugar that a can of Irn Bru.


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