An article released in the Sunday Times this weekend (14th February 2016) discussed the issue of not including high sugar baby and toddler foods in the Public Health England Low Sugar app. In response to this piece we, as Spoon Guru, would like to clarify where we stand on this topic.
Currently government nutritional labels use the total sugar content to dictate whether or not a particular food product is classified as low, medium or high sugar via the traffic light system. This does not distinguish between naturally occurring or free sugars.
Last year the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition presented new guidelines on sugar. It was recommended that “free sugars”, defined as all monosaccharides and disaccharides such as sucrose (table sugar) and glucose added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumers, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, should not make up more than 5% of total energy intakes for those 2 years and above. Sugar naturally contained in fruit (including dried fruit) and lactose (naturally present in milk and milk products) is excluded from this definition of free sugars.
Sugar consumption (whether intrinsic or added) should be limited and it would be misleading to a user to classify an apple as “low sugar” without making it very clear that it is “free sugars” we’re talking about.
That being said, it is crucial to categorise sugar based on the different effects it has on our bodies. For example a portion of fruit may contain as much as 20g of sugar, however, sugars found naturally in whole fruit and vegetables are less likely to cause tooth decay because the sugars are contained within the structure of the food. Similarly a portion of natural unsweetened yoghurt may contain approximately 10g of sugar, however, since it’s all derived from milk it is unlikely to contribute to tooth decay and obesity the same way that 10g of free fructose or sucrose would.
The complexity of the sugar debate is great and triggers much controversy. Sugar-containing foods should be considered based on the energy they provide, the other nutrients they contain, and the eating habits they contribute to, for example through increasing or suppressing appetite/hunger.
Currently, to simplify the message for users the Spoon Guru app classifies foods as low, medium or high in sugar, based on the total sugar content of food. However, we are working on a way to display the levels of the different types of sugar to empower our users make more informed lifestyle choices.