Whilst public health drives across the EU are encouraging consumers to take on healthier diets containing more fruits and vegetables, FoodWatch in the Netherlands has released a study showing 46% of tinned and jarred vegetables contain added sugar.
Researchers looked at 170 different jarred vegetable products and found 79 of them to contain up to 10% total added sugar.
Opting for the organic choices was not a way out; six out of 11 organic vegetable products also contained added sugar.
The worst offender was red cabbage, which contained 10 grams of sugar to every 100 grams of cabbage. Peas, carrots, corn, beets and Brussels sprouts were also on the list.
However, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, kale and asparagus were mostly sugar-free.
The study was conducted on products from the four most popular supermarkets in the Netherlands: Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Aldi and Lidl. Both their private label products and branded goods such as those from French fruit and vegetable processor Bonduelle all produced the same results.
The Dutch Food Industry Federation (FNLI) said that altering the taste of jarred and tinned vegetables too quickly by reducing sugar levels would put consumers off eating them, and only worsen the public diet even further.
The report comes as disputes over the status of the Dutch Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and its rulings are being debated in Dutch parliament.
Currently, the SAC issues advice on industry standards, such as those regarding foods high in fats, sugars and salt (HFFS).
Its advice is non-binding however, and the industry mostly chooses to override SAC targets for reducing HFSS foods, producing its own targets instead.
The Christian Union Party recently proposed a motion to parliament to make the SAC's rulings binding.
Sjoerd van de Wouw, spokesperson for FoodWatch, told us: “FoodWatch doesn’t believe in self-regulation. If the industry’s number one goal is profit, that’s fine, but you cannot put consumer health in their hands.”
The debate over making SAC rulings mandatory is ongoing, and will likely be decided following the Dutch general elections next month.