/ Food & Drink

Is life too sweet at times?

Sugar on spoon

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) draft report on carbohydrates and health published last week should be a wake-up call to the Government, food industry and consumers.

The SACN report made it clear that as a population we consume too much sugar and too little fibre. Its draft advice is for the population to lower consumption of free sugars (those added to foods and naturally present in syrups and unsweetened juices) to around 5% of daily energy intake. This means 5-6 teaspoons a day for a woman and 7-8 teaspoons for a man.

Across all population groups, we are failing to meet the current advice, let alone this stricter target. More specifically, SACN recommended that the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, such as fizzy drinks and squash be minimised in both children and adults.

Apart from the serious health consequences, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers linked to weight gain and tooth decay, there are enormous economic costs. Overweight and obesity is estimated to cost the NHS £4.7 billion per year and tooth decay £3.4 billion. Public Health England is now assessing what measures can be taken to reduce sugar intakes.

Too much sugar and too little fibre

Discussions through the Responsibility Deal have been ongoing but not enough progress has been made on this important issue. While there is a calorie reduction pledge, which 39 companies have signed up to, it is vaguely worded and leaves it to individual companies to determine the level of action they want to take – whether reformulation of their products or information initiatives. More specific action is now needed on sugar in several key areas, addressing both the breadth of companies committed to act and the scale of action they take.

Much clearer industry-wide reduction targets are needed across the key product categories that contribute free sugars to most people’s diets. This includes soft drinks, confectionery, biscuits, cakes and breakfast cereals for example. These should be developed in a similar way to the salt reduction targets, encouraging incremental reductions while taking account of quality and taste.

A much more concerted effort is also needed to tackle promotions. This includes looking at the balance of products that are included in supermarket price and other in-store promotions, but also making sure that there is a much more responsible approach to marketing to children, including teenagers. This is the group that consumes 50% more sugar than is recommended on average, with soft drinks the largest single source.

All population groups are eating too much sugar and much more needs to be done to help people reduce their intake and ultimately tackle the obesity crisis. This includes a far more ambitious approach to the Responsibility Deal, with greater direction from the Government to ensure meaningful change.

While information alone will never be enough, it is now clearly time for those manufacturers who have yet to commit to using traffic light labelling to adopt the national scheme and make it much clearer to people which products are high in sugar.

This post first appeared on The Grocer.



For your copy of the 366 page report .

There may be a suspicion that the amount of money spent on advertising is actually the main cause of over-consumption of food and perhaps it would be more sensible to ban the TV advertising of food products. TV advertising is by far the most insidious means of encouraging extra eating and banning it is perhaps the quickest and easiest method – and which I suspect would get much public support..

I see from “The Grocer” this quote and I wondered if one graphed advertising time/type to growth it may be a very close match.

“Yet energy drinks continue to grow in sales. Despite being loaded with significantly more sugar than regular pop in some cases, sales of sports & energy drinks have surged 8% in value and volume [IRI 52 w/e 29 March].”

Kess says:
6 July 2014

If I’m going to buy *bad* food I want it sweet. It’s bad for a reason. However when I want to buy *good* healthy food I don’t want it packed with sugar. Bread for example. Why add so much sugar?
There is also the same sugar in a can of coke and a bottle of Smoothy. We have been so brainwashed into believing what is and what is not healthy we have been conned.
I am all for less sugar but I find it being taken out of sweet puddings but not out of bread and what not.
I don’t buy some of sainsburys naughties anymore as they are bland and quite frankly for the price why should I not get what I pay for?
I don’t buy bread either as my partner can’t tolerate the sugars.
Obesity is not caused by sugar, it is caused by being misinformed as what is and isn’t healthy (ie low fat foods = good = more sugar added=lack of education) and a lack of support for those with emotional problems.
(I am overweight but understand why and it’s not because of being lazy)
If you want to tackle the so called obesity crises (Most people are overweight at some point in their lives not obese)
Then get activities back in school and longer play times. ( I hated PE because it was only ever sports. Get me in the gym or swimming and I love it)
Lets tackle the fact that sugar is being added to everything where it isn’t supposed to be.
If you eat a massive choco pudding you should understand it has massive calories and therefore consequences. It’s not rocket science.
But understanding and re learning everything you have been taught is!

Kess says:
6 July 2014

On a last note, can we please also tackle the fact that the overweight epidemic is not confined to white poor people. I live in a very multicultural area and I can assure it is not what the media says it is but they dare not address it for fear of offending.

Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

Kess, good point about sugar in “healthy” smoothies, but advertising is to blame. When a “healthy” drink is advertised as “75% pure juice and 25% spring water” (whatever “spring” water is – just water, I guess), why is it not 75% of the price of juice, but more likely to be double that? Advertising!


I agree with you that everything is about lack of education and information. Why we cannot have a simple life and a simple lifestyle, based on how the life it was 100 years ago…SIMPLE.


I have been eating a Waitrose Essential fruit & fibre cereal for years and chopping up some extra fruit with it as part of my 5 a day. I only recently discovered the cereal was almost 30% sugar, not surprising that I have not lost an ounce no matter what else I cut out or reduced. I am now having a granola with yogourt and this is 17% sugar. I never once thought quite a plain. not sweet, cereal could contain so much sugar. Kellogs fruit & fibre contains 24% sugar so by buying own brand I was having over 5% sugar. Until recently, I only worried about the fat content. Now, I spend my time reading the labels for all but food in it’s natural state. I resent having to do this as my trip to the shops takes longer.

I think the Government should now ‘encourage’ manufacturers to drastically reduce the sugar content in our daily food and drink and monitor closely what they replace it with.


I wish that they would include weight as well as teaspoons. Yes we all have teaspoons, but have you seen the variety of sizes and shapes? There is no law that forces a teaspoon to hold an exact quantity of sugar – so weight should be mandatory.

It is definitely the manufacturers that need to take greater responsibility for the ingredients in food. Processed food is often loaded with sugar. Soup, baked beans, sweet corn, salad dressings are just a few of the most unexpected foods to find loaded with sugar.

Think: would you put sugar in your own home made soup or salad dressing. You just can’t trust any processed food.


The recommendation is to limit the combined daily intake of added sugars and those that are present in the ingredients, so it is not very easy to work out what your sugar intake is.