Added sugar campaign

End the sugar coating

Tell your food ministers to clearly label added sugar

When it comes to added sugar labelling, the food industry is winning. Tell State and Territory Food Ministers that to support the health of Australians, we need improved sugar labelling.

With over 43 different names used for added sugar in the ingredients list right now, it is complicated or impenetrable to try and distinguish sugars occurring naturally in foods from those with little or no nutritional benefits that can damage our health. 

People need clear and accurate information to make informed choices about their food. As it stands now, Australian food labelling requirements don’t help people to follow the advice on added sugars set by leading national and international health institutions. This means that Australians, especially children and teenagers, are over-consuming added sugar and they are doing so unknowingly. With over half the population exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended daily intake of added sugar, it is time to insist sugar labelling improves.

CHOICE is calling on Food and Health Ministers to take action on added sugar and label it clearly on food products. They have been reviewing the WHO recommendations and are close to forming an approach which you can help influence.

By adding your voice, the people with the power to decide about sugar labelling will have the information they need to spark change. The health information is already in their hands, and what is needed for November 2017 is a show of support for added sugars to be clearly labelled.

Let’s show the Ministers just how many people want added sugars in our food and drinks to be intelligible and visible.

Why label added sugar?

Want to know how much added sugar is hiding in your food? Right now it’s basically impossible to distinguish between sugars occurring naturally in foods and added sugar which has low or no nutritional benefits.

In Australia, food labels will only tell you the total sugar in a product, not the added stuff. And, you can’t rely on the ingredient list because there are over 43 different names for added sugar.

A new CHOICE investigation has found that added sugar labelling could help consumers avoid 26 teaspoons of unnecessary sugar per day and up to 38 kilograms of unnecessary sugar a year!

At their most recent meeting, Food Ministers renewed their commitment to improve the health of Australians. They want to help people make healthy food choices. Sugar labelling is a necessary step to achieving this.

“Nutrition information panels lump added sugars in with naturally occurring ones, which aren’t such a dietary concern. There’s no way to sort one from the other.”

says Professor Mike Berridge, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research as quoted in Consumer NZ, Olivia Wannan article ‘Hidden Sugar’

“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,”

says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

“Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet.”

says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

More about added sugar

Intrinsic vs added sugar

The World Health Organisation’s recommendation that we don’t over-consume added sugars is because these types of sugar can have damaging health effects. 

Added sugars are also the major source of sugar in the Australian diet and have few if any nutritional benefits. It is their popularity, combined with the potential to damage health that means labelling them clearly is important.

These types of sugars are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates but the majority of free sugars are those that get added to food and drink. For that reason, we refer to them as ‘added sugars’, whereas the WHO names them ‘free sugars’.

Added sugars contain no nutritional benefits, are the major source of sugar in the Australian diet and have damaging health effects. They include monosaccharides such as glucose and disaccharides such as sucrose and can be present under 40+ different names distributed throughout the ingredient list, making them confusing to identify and hard to quantify. 

Intrinsic sugars on the other hand, are include the sugars found in nutrient-rich foods such as milk, fruits and vegetables. These foods are recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and their intrinsic sugars are part of a healthy, balanced diet. Another term for intrinsic sugars is ‘naturally occurring’ which is indicative of their not having been ‘added’.

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Intrinsic sugars include the sugars found in nutrient-rich foods such as milk and intact fruits and vegetables. These foods are recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and their intrinsic sugars are part of a healthy, balanced diet.

However, added sugars are the major source of sugar in the Australian diet and have damaging health effects.

In Australia over half the population is exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation to limit added sugar consumption to no more than 10% of daily energy intake.

 

The WHO calls these sugars free sugars and they include monosaccharides such as glucose and disaccharides such as sucrose, added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.23

Intrinsic sugars include the sugars found in nutrient-rich foods such as milk and intact fruits and vegetables. These foods are recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and their intrinsic sugars are part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Added sugars (what the WHO terms ‘free sugars’), on the other hand, are devoid of other nutritional benefits, add unnecessary kilojoules to a diet and have damaging health effects. They include monosaccharides such as glucose and disaccharides such as sucrose, added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

When we refer to added sugars, we refer to the WHO’s definition of added sugar (which they term free sugars).

Food swaps that cut added sugar

Products like cakes, chocolates or soft drinks clearly contain added sugar. But it can be extremely difficult to determine how much added sugar is in everyday products such as muesli bars, cereals and frozen meals. Small amounts of added sugars consumed throughout the day can add up and contribute empty kilojoules to an individual’s diet.

CHOICE has looked at commonly eaten items throughout the day to see how much added sugar is hiding in these products. Calculating the added sugar in a product isn’t easy. We’ve had to refer to research papers and delve into nutritional databases. We could only analyse the added sugar amount where ingredient lists told us the percentage composition of ingredients in the product that contain sugar. For example, if a product’s only intrinsic sugars come from apricots and apricot makes up 10% of the product, we can determine the amount of sugar in the apricot using a nutritional database and subtract this from total sugars to determine the amount of added sugar. For an ingredient that consumers are supposed to actively reduce, it is surprisingly difficult to find out if sugar is in your food.

 

 

Hidden sugar

Much of the sugar we consume today is hidden in processed foods that we may not think of as sweets. WHO gives the example of tomato sauce – with one tablespoon containing around one teaspoon of sugar. And then there are the obvious sources of sugar, such as soft drinks. For example, a 600ml bottle of Coca Cola contains 16 teaspoons of sugar alone. Even a 200ml popper of apple juice contains the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar.

You can test your sugar knowledge over at the ABC using their interactive sugar quiz

World Health Organisation

<p>In 2015, the WHO released a recommendation that no more than 10% of total daily energy intake should come from added sugars. For an average adult intake of 8,700 kilojoules, this equates to 52 grams or 13 teaspoons of added sugar. The WHO made a further conditional recommendation that added sugar intake be reduced to below 5% of total energy intake. This recommendation was made on the basis that added sugars increase overall energy intake and may also reduce an individual’s intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate kilojoules, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases.6 7 Correspondingly, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADGs) advises Australians to limit their intake of foods and beverages containing added sugar, especially all sugarsweetened drinks, sports drinks, confectionery, biscuits and cakes. 8</p>
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Contrary to the advice from health bodies, in 2011-12 Australians consumed on average 60 grams or 14 teaspoons of added sugar a day. This equates to almost 22 kilos of added sugar a year.9 The Australian Health Survey found that over half of Australians exceed the WHO’s recommendation to reduce added sugar to 10% of daily energy intake.10 And the most affected groups? Children and teenagers. Close to three quarters of 9-13 and 14-18 year olds usually derive 10% or more of their dietary energy intake from added sugars. For 14-18 year old males, the average consumption of added sugar is 22 teaspoons per day and the top 10% consume at least 38 teaspoons per day, equivalent to the sugar in almost 4 cans of coke.11 12 Products such as sugarsweetened beverages, breakfast cereal, spreads, cakes, biscuits, muesli bars and ready-made sauces and meals were the primary contributors to added sugar in their diets.13 The WHO’s additional recommendation of limiting added sugar to 5% is exceeded by nine out of ten Australians.14 The situation is also concerning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are consuming on average 75 grams or 18 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This is 15 grams, almost 4 teaspoons, more than non-Indigenous people.15 Similarly, children and teenagers are the worst affected age groups. The over-consumption of added sugar presents a serious health risk to Australia. Diets high in added sugar may displace nutritious foods and increase energy-dense, nutrient poor foods, associated with weight gain and dental caries (tooth decay).16<span style=”font-size: 1rem;”>

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References and links

CHOICE Australia
Read the CHOICE Report into added sugar labelling in Australia Published April 2017

Read the CHOICE Added sugar article. Published April 2017

World Health Organisation (WHO)
Guidelines and recommendations

Read the WHO Sugars intake for adults and children guideline

Read the WHO urges global action to curtail consumption and health impacts of sugary drinks media release

Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults recommendations

Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in adults to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases intervention guideline

Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in children to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases intervention guideline