The role of sugars in the diet has been in the media spotlight recently
resulting in lots of different and often conflicting discussion about the
Sugars, like any other nutrient, can be enjoyed safely as part of a varied and
balanced diet. They perform a number of different functions in food and drinks
beyond flavour. This includes affecting the texture, for example adding
crunchiness, melting characteristic or 'mouth feel', providing bulk, adding
colour to a
final product, or increasing shelf-life. In the UK intakes of free sugars are
on a downwards trend, decreasing by 6.1% since 2010 (source: Defra family
however they are still higher than recommended levels set by UK Government in
As part of their commitment to play their part in improved public health, and
where their portfolio allows them to do so, FDF
members in the UK are working to reduce the content of free sugars in their
products, with a particular focus on where this results in a calorie reduction.
Furthermore, manufacturers provide clear on-pack nutrition information, which
includes total sugars, to help individuals to make informed choices and improve
their overall food literacy.
On 17 July 2015 the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), an
independent committee which advises Public Health England and other government
agencies and departments, published its final report on carbohydrates (including sugars) and health.
In the final report, SACN made the following recommendations regarding sugars:
- SACN recommend the population average intake of free sugars should not exceed 5%
of total dietary energy for ages 2 years upwards.
- SACN recommend that intakes of sugars-sweetened beverages (SSB’s) be minimised
in children and adults.
- SACN recommend that the definition for ‘free sugars’ be adopted in the UK. This
definition comprises all mono and disaccharides added to foods by the
manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups
unsweetened fruit juices. Under this definition lactose, when naturally present
and milk products, and sugars contained within the cellular structure of foods
would be excluded.
- SACN recommend that the energy lost from a reduction in free sugars be replaced
with starches, sugars contained within the cellular structure of foods and in
milk and milk products (and this should only occur if person is in energy
and has a BMI within the normal range).
The SACN report recommended that the DRV for total carbohydrate remain unchanged
at 50% of dietary energy.
The Government has approved the recommendations in full and the 5% figure has
been adopted as the new dietary recommendation for sugars in the UK. Currently,
mean adults intakes of free sugars in the UK are 12.1% of food energy;
highlighting the scale of the reduction challenge.
Industry has a long-standing commitment to reducing sugars in products, where
they result in an overall calorie reduction, more recently, as part of the
Health Responsibility Deal. Companies will continue to reduce sugars in
products where technically possible to do so, and in line with the tastes of
FDF has developed a Q & A document outlining the role
and the diet
Labelling of sugars
As of 13 December 2014, companies are required to provide mandatory nutrition
labelling which includes values for both carbohydrates and total sugars, and
many also provide simplified voluntary nutrition information on the front of
pack. The different types of sugars used in a product are also listed
individually in the ingredients list. More
information on this labelling can be found at FDF’s food labelling site.
Last reviewed: 22 Jul 2016