LIFESTYLE

Food Labelling Campaign To Help Identity Foods With Added Sugar

Think of it as a Fairtrade stamp, but for sugar.

11/03/2016 13:12 | Updated 11 March 2016

Over the past few years sugar has become the sworn dietary enemy, linked to a range of illnesses and the growing obesity epidemic.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) cut its recommended sugar intake for adults in half, from 10% of total daily calorie intake to 5%. For an adult, that equates to roughly 25 grams - or 6 teaspoons - per day.

But, while we all know that sugar is the bad guy, spotting its presence in everyday foods is a different story.

Now, a new food labelling campaign, Sugarwise, hopes to change that, by helping shoppers differentiate between naturally-occurring and added sugar in food products.

Scientists have devised a test to distinguish between a food's total sugar content and its added sugar.

If a product has a low added sugar content, it will be given a Sugarwise logo -think of it as the Fairtrade stamp, but for added sugar.

Sugarwise

The Sugarwise idea was inspired by Rend Platings, a mother who wanted to feed her daughter foods with low-added sugar. 

Rend Platings said: "I was shocked to hear my daughter’s generation may live a shorter life than their parents. It’s not that we don’t know about the dangers of sugar, we do; the problem relates to our lack of access to healthier choices.

"I am hoping that Sugarwise will have the potential to change things in the same way Fairtrade and Organic labels have – both have successfully driven up demand and availability of products in their categories. We would all benefit if the same was the case for low free sugar products."

Vinicius Ferreira, a research scientist at Cambridge University who helped develop Sugarwise, said in a statement: "We have to start drawing a distinction between free sugars and non-free sugars, because free sugar content, rather than the total sugar content currently displayed in nutritional labels, is the critical measure of the quality of a food's nutritional profile.

"Foods high in free sugar are almost universally deficient in other nutrients and fibre, and when the population starts getting a large proportion of their daily calories from foods high in free sugar, they fail to meet their daily requirements for nutrients and fiber."

He added: "Moreover, foods high in free sugar are typically digested faster and lead to more frequent feelings of hunger. To get the most 'nutritional bang for your buck' Sugarwise promotes consumption of foods low in free sugars, and, to cut through the noise and misinformation regarding sugars, me and my scientific colleagues have developed a new 'Sugarwise' standard to evaluate foods. Foods that meet our criteria will carry our Sugarwise brand, which will enable consumers to easily and quickly identify products that are truly 'Sugarwise'."

 

Common Names For Added Sugar

 

Dr Tom Simmons, a research scientist from Cambridge University who also worked on the project, said: "Free sugars are accompanied by less fibre and other nutrients that can be found in the whole food. Therefore, they are less likely to suppress appetite and consequently people who consume a diet high in free sugars are more likely to consume too many calories and gain weight..."

"There is a strong correlation of free sugars intake with dental diseases such as tooth decay and also heart disease and diabetes. We still have to be aware of salt, fat and total sugars but free sugars are the big food issue of our time.

"They are arguably the most important issue where there is the largest potential to positively impact health by changing the free sugars profiles of our foods, especially if these changes can be made in the manufacturing process."

"Not only is it arguably the most important issue and largest challenge facing us today, but current food labels do not reveal free sugars. Sugarwise gives you information that you are not currently told, in traffic lights or on food labels, and guides you to products that are definitely within the recommended guidelines for free sugars."

Lucy Jones, a dietician from Public Health England, said the focus shouldn't be on individual foods, but lifestyle in general.

"This target for us to consume 5% or less of our energy intake from sugars is about our daily overall intake," she said, according to Sky News.

"It's not that every food needs to contain less than 5% sugar. And most of us are perfectly able to have some treats within our diet that are higher than 5% added sugars or free sugars."

Supermarket giant Tesco backed the certification by advising on compliance with European Union regulations for food and drink packaging and also supported development of the certification's logo, according to reports.

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