Are Sugar Free Food Labels Confusing You?

sugar cubes - how many do you have?The Truth Behind Zero Sugar Declarations

How much sugar do you consume each day? If you regularly enjoy sugar-free or zero sugar products, the chances are you’re not being as healthy as you could.  

27% of Brits are now clinically obese, and a further 36% find themselves in the overweight category according to a report compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. These shocking statistics confirm that the UK is the most overweight country in Western Europe. Poor nutrition combined with a sedentary lifestyle are largely to blame for this epidemic, but some dieters may unwittingly be consuming large quantities of sugar while attempting to follow a healthier path.

The reason for this is sugar-free and zero sugar labels on products, which due to a government loophole, are legally allowed to contain sugar. Read why sugar is bad for your health.

Educating Consumers

Rip-off Britain explains that sugar-free products are permitted to include 0.5g of sugar per 100ml or 100g of the product. Taking a two-litre bottle of Fanta Zero as an example, this contains 10g of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2 ½ spoonfuls of sugar and a third of the maximum recommended intake for adults. The numbers become even more concerning when you consider that this same bottle of Fanta Zero contains over half the amount of recommended sugar for a 4 to 6 year old. Seeing that excess sugar intake is one of the leading causes of stomach fat, it is vital that consumers are made aware of hidden sugar.

Misleading Ingredients

Perhaps one of the reasons that consumers are baffled by these so-called sugar-free products, is that even if they read the labels, the list of ingredients doesn’t always include the word ‘sugar’. Instead, it is disguised as a number of sweeteners and artificial flavourings that aren’t obviously associated with weight gain and poor nutrition. Although it is required that manufacturers list the entire breakdown of what has gone into the product, this is little use if the consumer doesn’t understand the nature of these ingredients.

Identifying Sugars in Disguise

The word ‘sugar’ is the equivalent of the same type of white sucrose that you would find in your kitchen cupboard. However, glucose, fructose, and maltose should also be treated as sugar ingredients, while natural sugars such as fruit or fruit juice will also go towards your daily total. One of the best ways to examine the breakdown of a product is to view the nutritional information – look at the Carbohydrates section and specifically the ‘of which sugars’ line, which will give you an accurate idea of how unhealthy this product is for you to consume.

Convincing The Health-Conscious

A key problem experienced by manufacturers, is in convincing savvy consumers that their product is genuinely healthy. Why should consumers believe that this is truly sugar-free when soft drink companies and other big-name chains are misrepresenting their own unhealthy ranges? As well as clever marketing and a social media presence that is as transparent as possible about their healthy approach to production, it is important for food producers to invest in customized labels as this is what attracts the eye of new consumers to your product and sets it apart from competitors. With a healthy product, it’s all about promoting the benefits as much as possible; don’t hide away the facts with a small font on your ingredients list. Equally, if your product passes the traffic light test, then make sure that you highlight the ‘of which sugars’ line in green. You should also consider adding a healthy tagline onto the front label.

Although the wording on some labels is known to confuse shoppers, there’s no getting past the fact that packaging is known to grab the attention of consumers. So, it’s time to analyse the success of your labelling strategy and if you’ve got a healthy product to promote, make sure your labels are doing the talking for you!

The war on sugar is developing and finally people are started to realise that a inadequate regulation in the food and drinks industry is one of the key causes of obesity.

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