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Calls for action on sugar

31st Jan 2014

Rachel Kayani

Sugar is the new tobacco – according to health experts who are campaigning for a 30% reduction in the amount of sugars put into food. Doctors and academics are saying that sugar consumption is too high; with many foods containing unnecessary added sugars, and that levels need to be reduced to pre vent a wave of disease and death. Keith Vaz MP called the fight against sugar during the Prime Minster Question Time on January 15,as ‘war on sugar.’

The campaigners are targeting large food man u fracturing companies and urging them to cut the amount of sugars they add to their products. Action on Sugar is led by the same team who set up Consensus Action on Salt and Health and it wants companies to grad u ally cut the amount of sugars they add to foods so that the rising tide of obesity and diabetes can be curbed.

The campaign group insists that if the amounts of sugars were grad u ally reduced over time, con sumers would not notice the difference, which is what was previously done with salt – salt levels fell by around 15% between 2001 and 2011. The goal is to implement reductions of 20 – 30% in sugars in the next five years.

Most shoppers are now aware of which foods contain high amounts of sugars and fats and the introduction of new food label ling has helped to clarify the nutritional con tent of foods. However, there are still many foods that have surprising sugar con tents that consumers may not be aware of.

For example, many low fat produce which ap pear to be a healthy alternative actually contain added sugars to add flavour. Many zero-fat yoghurts can contain around five tea spoons of sugar, and even savoury foods like a can of Heinz tomato soup has four tea spoons of sugar. Many breakfast cereals aimed at children are also high in sugars.

Fizzy drinks are known to be high in sugar, with a 330ml Coca-cola can having around 9 tea spoons of sugar, but it may not be as obvious how much sugar is in a Frappuccino or latte – but it can contain nearly as much sugar as a fizzy drink. The equiv a lent of 11 tea spoons are found in a small Starbucks caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream.

The typical Briton consumes around 12 tea spoons of sugar a day, but many adults consume much more with some adults consuming up to 46 tea spoons of sugar a day. The maximum in take recommended by the World Health Organisation is ten, although this guideline is likely to be halved.

The increased consumption of sugar is thought to be related to the rising obesity epidemic the country is facing, and other related health issue like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that obesity and diabetes already cost the UK over £5billion a year. If the trend continues it could rise to £50billion by 2050.

However, sugar manufacturers rejected the claims of the health experts saying they were not supported by the consensus of scientific evidence. Sugar Nutrition UK said the World Health Organisation published are view last year that found that any link between diabetes and body weight was due to over consumption of calories and was not specific to sugar.

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