Cutting Sugar Levels in Packaged Food: Is it Possible?

Dec 02, 2015 12:22 AM EST | By Mel Aguilar

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Sugar reduction in packaged food has been called for by health authorities worldwide. Reducing salt in most packaged goods have been successful, but will the same approach apply to sugar? 

In a report by BBC, some fifty years ago, daily consumer goods from bread to tinned vegetables had much higher salt levels. Soon after the government took action, a typical loaf of bread now has 40% less salt since the 1980s, with about a 10% reduction in the past three years.

Public Health England suggests to have a similar program implemented for sugar in processed and packaged goods especially in biscuits, puddings, yoghurts, cereals and drinks. One possible action that could also have positive health benefits is reduction in portion size, which could very well go along with the said approach in sugar. A 50% sugar reduction from commonly consumed packaged goods would lower sugar intakes for adults from 12% to 9% of energy and about 15% to 10% for children and teenagers. 

What are the current alternatives toward this food movement?

A plant called Stevia is 200 times as sweet with zero calories included. Brands such as Heinz and Coca Cola make use of it. Usually, the alteration is introduced gradually and soon buried in packaging labels while other brands or manufacturers will list it clearly on the label. "Others choose not to shout about it for various reasons - it could be because it's an everyday product and they don't want to confuse consumers," Kutz said. Some consumers tend to become concerned about artificial sweeteners as they may have potential side-effects. 

Meanwhile food scientists at Nottingham Trent University experiment with baking cakes. They are trying out different levels of sugar and artificial sweeteners. "Sugar has functions within the recipe, as most things do. Of course it provides sweetness and adds to the pleasant flavour, but it also adds texture to it and it also has a caramelising effect so it browns, so it's aesthetically pleasing. We eat with our eyes, so if it doesn't look good, we're not going to eat it," senior food lecturer Christine Walker said. "... so it has those things and and if you start to take sugar away from it, those things may well be changed," Walker continued.  

As for supermarket giants, the same "juggling act" is on them; they want the public to move away from unhealthy food but they also can't afford to wary off customers. Iceland joint manager Nick Canning said, "If you take all the salt out of a ready meal for instance, then customers won't buy it. It will taste bland, it will taste manufactured. It's not what they want and not want we want." -another big problem with removing sugar from food recipes is that it causes technical problems.  

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