News article

Shocking levels of sugar in UK ready meals, says Which?

Posted:  Thursday, June 12, 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that UK ready meals contain more than the recommended level of daily intake of sugar. The UK consumer association stated that 17 own labels and branded ready meals showed a major disparity in their sugar levels. But, the worst brands were those that labelled their products with lower sugar level. However, they breached the 25 grams ‘free sugar’ a day recommended for both men and women by the WHO.

Sugar level in food:

A dairy milk chocolate bar contained less sugar than Sainsbury’s Sweet and sour chicken which contained 50.7g in comparison to Dairy milk’s 25.5 grams, which is almost 10 teaspoons of sugar per pack.

“With rising obesity rates, it is shocking to find that ready meals contain more sugar than a chocolate bar. We want the government to set clear targets for sugar reduction as part of the Responsibility Deal with food businesses,” said WHO.

“Manufacturers could reduce sugar in a similar way to how they worked together to gradually reduce sugar levels in food. By making steady reductions, where feasible, for products, won't impact on taste if it is done over a period of time.”

Intake per day:

The recommended daily intake of sugar per day for adults 150 calories for men and 100 calories for women. Added sugars, have no nutritional value and only empty calories that get deposited in the body as fat resulting in obesity and diabetes.

There are several different names of sugars but, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup or fructose should be avoided and if any packaged food labels contains these three ingredients or even just one of them, they should be avoided as well. Always read the label as knowing what goes into the body is beneficial.

Chocolate bars contain anywhere between 44g or 5.75 teaspoons of sugar to 100g or 11.5 teaspoons of sugar. Whereas, one can of a soft drink contains between 2.5 teaspoons of sugar to 7 teaspoons of sugar. Deserts which also have added sugar varied between 3-5 teaspoons of sugar. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables, which have natural sugar should be consumed as an alternative.

Health campaigner Katherine Jenner at action on sugar said, “Sugar is often used to replicate the authentic flavours normally achieved using good quality fresh ingredients. Manufacturers will also be trying to match the taste of high street takeaways - which don’t have, good process controls generally and recipes contain huge amounts of cheap ingredients.” Manufactures use this method to make food more appealing to consumers and to mask the taste of inferior ingredients. Jenner also suggested that reducing the sugar content by 10 % can be beneficial without taking away from the taste of the product.

Jenner also added, “Consumers who eat ultra-processed foods are at higher risk of obesity and that is an indicator for lots of other more serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.”