Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London is calling for supermarkets and retailers to take responsibility for the large amounts of sugar they’re selling to consumers by excluding all ‘high’ sugar drinks and confectionery (ie those that would have a ‘red’ traffic light label) sold as part of their popular meal deals.
A NEW survey by the leading sugar and health expert group has revealed certain food and drink combinations contain a staggering 30 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than four times an adult’s DAILY maximum intake of ‘free’ sugars3 (30g / 7 tsp) in just a single lunch.
From the meal deals surveyed, the combination containing the highest amount of sugar is from WHSmith which includes a sandwich plus the option of a Mountain Dew Citrus Blast 500ml drink and a bag of Skittles Crazy Sours which contains an extraordinary 30 teaspoons of sugar – equivalent to the amount of sugar in 79 chocolate fingers!
In fact, if someone was to consume this meal deal every day over a working week, this would equate to a whopping 150 teaspoons of sugar (595g); more than a 1lb bag of sugar!
Whilst the findings, launched to coincide with Sugar Awareness Week (30th October – 5th November), reveal that low sugar meal deal options are available with some combinations containing less than one teaspoon of sugar, the majority of retailers are failing to promote healthy choices to their consumers.
72% of meal deal drinks sold at Morrisons are high (red) in sugar per drink compared to 38% at M&S which offers the lowest percentage of high sugar drinks.
Some drinks alone contain up to 70g of sugar and are frequently offered in 500ml portions, which equates to two servings, despite being sold as part of a lunch meal.
In addition, WHSmith’s are not even providing healthy snack options i.e. fresh fruit as part of their meal deals.
As well as excluding high sugar drinks, chocolate and sweets from meal deals, if retailers really want to encourage customers to make healthy choices, they should also consider not offering any other high (red) sugar products along with those high in salt and saturated fat9 as part of meal deals and increase the range of healthier choices. Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar
says, “Eating too much sugar is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and tooth decay. Supermarkets pretend to be on the side of their customer’s health to encourage loyalty, but this survey clearly shows that they are not. The government now needs to take decisive action to ban all promotions of unhealthy foods.” Registered Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, Researcher at Action on Sugar
explains, “These excessively high sugar combos can have a detrimental effect on people’s health, particularly if eaten daily. It is staggering that by just making simple swaps at lunchtime, you can reduce your sugar intake by a massive 29 teaspoons of sugar. “Often it is the drinks included in the meal deals which are extremely high in sugar. The majority of the retailers have more high sugar drinks as part of meal deal promotions than lower sugar drinks; this is not giving consumers enough healthier choices. Retailers could easily replace these with lower or no sugar options, at no extra cost.” Registered Nutritionist Jenny Rosborough and Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar
adds,“It is time the government ensured that price promotions, including meal deals, only include healthier options. This year’s Sugar Awareness Week highlights just how much sugar is included on price promotion, which has been proven to make people buy more. “The government has been running scared of the food industry for far too long, having eliminated price promotions from last year’s Childhood Obesity Plan. Meanwhile, last week Scotland announced plans to restrict the promotion of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt.12 If the UK government care about our nation’s health, they need to tackle this head on and take action now.”
Tips for choosing healthier meal deals:
- Use the FoodSwitch UK app to find healthier choices – simply scan the barcode of your regular brand to get colour coded nutrition information and see a list of healthier alternatives.
You can use the SugarSwitch filter to find products lower in sugar!
- Choose products with front of pack traffic light colours - pick products that are amber or green for sugar, salt and saturated fat
- Choose fruit or vegetables for the snack option
- Choose water or sugar-free drinks or smaller portions of fruit juice or smoothie for the drink option