Action on Sugar removes bread from high-sugar hit list: 'We acknowledge it was not accurate'

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

“If we want to help consumers understand what’s in food, it’s important we do that in an accurate way,” says Federation of Bakers following Action on Sugar retraction.
“If we want to help consumers understand what’s in food, it’s important we do that in an accurate way,” says Federation of Bakers following Action on Sugar retraction.

Related tags: Sugar, Bread

Anti-sugar lobby group Action on Sugar has removed bread from its initial list of products containing ‘large amounts of sugar’.

As part of the pressure group’s seven-step plan​ to reduce UK sugar intakes – including reducing added sugar in foods by 40%, introducing a sugar tax on foods and banning ‘junk food’ sponsorship of sports events  – it placed bread amongst foods that contained more sugar than consumers may realize.

Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers that flagged the issue with the campaign group, told the reference to bread was “certainly unfortunate”​.

Katharine Jenner, campaign director and nutritionist for the organization, said: “The press release did include bread in the list of products containing ‘large amounts of sugar’, which we acknowledge is not accurate, as although many do contain a type of naturally occurring sugars (which would still be a ‘free sugar’, I believe), they often do not have ‘sugar’ as an ingredient, and even then, not in large amounts.”

Polson said: “If we want to help consumers understand what’s in food, it’s important we do that in an accurate way.”

Counting sugar cubes

The original Action on Sugar release said: It's not just the well-known brands, such as Coca-Cola which has a staggering 9 teaspoons of added sugar, but flavoured water, sports drinks, yogurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread are just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of hidden sugars”​.

This statement was then followed by a table of the sugar content – including added and naturally-occurring - of products like Coca-Cola Original, Butterkist Toffee Popcorn,  Heinz Classic Tomato Soup and Kellogg's Frosties. Hovis Soft White Bread Medium was among this table of sugars per portion and will remain there as a useful guide for shoppers to be aware to check the label and ideally choose the lowest sugar breads and bread-related products,”​ Action on Sugar said.

In the same release Professor Simon Capewel, one of the groups’ campaigners, called sugar “the new tobacco”.   

Polson said the initial classification was inaccurate it its “unfortunate assumption”​ that bread contained added sugar. He said most bread contained only naturally-occurring sugars, and in the case of additions in some wholemeal loaves this ‘total sugar’ content was still low at around 4 g per 100 g. He said it was also important to acknowledge the “significant contribution bread makes to a healthy diet”. ​ 

Commenting on the retraction, he said: “The objective wasn’t to receive an apology – just to acknowledge there was an error.”

Calling into question

Asked if the lobby group would be re-evaluating any other categorisations, Jenner said: “No other categories have been brought into question, however as a new campaign, our work is continually evolving as new information comes to light – for instance the new draft SACN report states we should collectively use the term ‘free sugars’ instead of ‘added sugars’, and thus we have amended our aims accordingly.”

“We feel it is very important to listen to the challenges of sugar reduction from manufacturers and producers, and have spent the last six months since the campaign launched working out the feasibility of a sugar reduction programme. We are still 100% confident that it can, and will, halt the obesity epidemic,” ​she said.

Labelling sugar

Polson said that the total sugar levels of bread per serving would still amount to a  ‘low sugar content’ and coded green categorisation within the UK’s voluntary front-of-pack labelling scheme since it contained less than 5 g of sugar.

He said in this respect the so called ‘traffic light’ scheme was clearer for consumers than if they were to just look at ingredient lists.  

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