SUGAR & KIDS
THE HIDDEN TRUTH
Most of us know that we shouldn't have too much sugar. But with a spoonful here and a biscuit there, what do any of us really know about the amount of sugar our kids eat each day.
According to a National Diet and Nutrition Survey set-up by Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency, kids are consuming three times more sugar than they should be.*
*Based on the maximum daily added sugar recommendation.
Click below to see the results of the survey.
Janice is a busy working mum, and worries about how much salt her kids are eating, but sugar is something she doesn't really think about.
Janice Horsell, 47, Mum of 2
When you have 2 kids and work 5 days a week, sugar is the last thing I think about. I make them breakfast, pack their lunch boxes and cook them dinner, and I do sometimes think about how much salt I'm putting in, but a bowl of cereal isn't going to kill my kids. The problem is knowing what the bad sugar is and what isn't.
1 bowl of Coco Pops cereal with milk - 18g
Beans on toast - 10.8g
1 bag of strawberry yoghurt flakes - 16g
Total sugar - 44.8g
We asked Janice to keep a food diary of what she usually feeds her children in one day, to see if they would go over their recommended daily amount of added sugar.
After looking at the sugar content from the various products, we found how quickly it adds up, especially in childrens food.
If a child aged 7-10 years old had this breakfast and lunch, they would already be over their recommended daily amount before they had even started dinner.
Horsell Family Food Diary
Amount of sugar recorded (in grams) is the total amount of sugar advertised on the label per serving.
So how much added sugar do we really need?
The Government’s guidelines for the daily amount of “total sugars” (both naturally occurring and free sugars) for the average adult in the United Kingdom is a maximum of 90g per day.
The Government DO NOT currently provide specific guidelines for children.
7 cubes max*
or 30 grams
6 cubes max*
or 24 grams
5 cubes max*
or 19 grams
= 4g of sugar
Knowing how much sugar you're eating should be easy. All you have to do is check the label. But is it as easy as it seems?
Not for the products we looked at...
Big brands popular with children, and some that were clearly marketed for them, only seemed to show percentage intakes for adults.
Based on Mums food diary, we asked Kelloggs, Fruit Bowl and Heinz what the regular intake of sugar would be for a child...
"I honestly don't know, it's kind of difficult... I've never been given the childs ratios on it."
Strawberry Yoghurt Flakes
Erm... I don't have that figure to hand.
"I don't know if we can actually give that information out."
Some products don't even label sugar in the ingrediants list.
You might not know it, but the following are all "sugars".
Sugar? What sugar?
While not breaching any labelling regulations, this does show how difficult it can be to work out how much sugar we are consuming.
We also discovered that relying on the label might not even be enough...
We sent 3 different products from different brands chosen from Janice's food diary to a lab, to compare the amount of sugar declared on the label, with the amount that is actually in the products.
The results show that at the time of testing, 2/3 of the products contained more sugar than the label said.
It might be surprising, but all of them fell within the official margins of error, set by the European Commission guidance on the level of tolerance allowed against the on-pack claim.
For sugar, this can be up to 20% either side of the amount on the label.
“As a food manufacturer we work to a recipe. However, there can be some fluctuations and the sugar levels of our products can vary very slightly... It is possible to get results that are higher."
"These products are not fruit
substitutes... The nutritional information on the packaging for this product states that Strawberry Yogurt Flakes contain 69g of carbohydrate of which 62g is sugar. This is correct. The amount of sugar in the product is as declared on the label.”
It's clear that current food labelling makes it difficult for the everyday parent to work out how much sugar their child is consuming. Having no recommended intake percentage for children, on products aimed at them, can be misleading.
If the companies we spoke to don't know how much sugar a child's portion of their product contains, how are we, as parents and consumers suppose to know? Our mum Janice had no idea her children were eating way over their recommended allowance on a regular basis.
We recommend that the EU/government help parents to reduce their child's sugar intake by advising brands to state the reference intake for the average child.
"I had no idea how much sugar the kids were eating, the labels seem very misleading."
- Janice, mum of two.
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