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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Squeezing the truth out of hidden sugars in children's juices

  • Children’s juices can contain more sugars than Coca Cola!
  • Parents should give their children water or whole fruit instead of juices 
  • These drinks are a major and unnecessary source of sugars and calories, causing tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes

Action on Sugar

According to a NEW survey by Action on Sugar on the hidden sugars found in seemingly healthy children’s fruit juices , juice drinks , smoothies  (1) – over a quarter of products surveyed (i.e. 57 of the 203 products) contain the same amount or more sugars than Coca Cola – which contains a massive 5 teaspoons of sugar per 200ml glass! (2,3)
With one in five children aged 4-5 and one in three children aged 10-11 now overweight or clinically obese (4) AND tooth decay being the most common reason for children in England being admitted to hospital (5), Action on Sugar is urging (a) parents to give children water or whole fruit instead of juice and (b) manufacturers to reduce the level of sugars in their drinks, and to stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories, NOW.

Portion sizes vary greatly, however over half (117) of the drinks surveyed would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for levels of sugars per standard 200ml equivalent serving (6-7), including;
  • Smoothie: Tesco Goodness Slurper Apple & Banana Fruit Smoothie Snack for kids (8 teaspoons per 200ml equivalent) NB: this product is sold in a 90g portion size (8)
  • Juice Drink: Rubicon Lychee Exotic Juice Drink (7 teaspoons per 200ml equivalent) NB: this product is sold in a 288ml portion size (9)
  • Fruit Juice: Asda Chosen by Kids Tropical Juice From Concentrate  (7 teaspoons per 200ml equivalent) NB: this product is sold in a 180ml portion size (10)

A QUARTER (25%) of children’s juices can contain at least six teaspoons of sugars (25g) per 200ml (7) - the maximum
ADULT daily intake of free sugars  as suggested in the SACN draft guidelines (11,12).  Twenty-four of these products surveyed contain MORE than 25g sugars per 200ml equivalent; more than two and a half Krispy Kreme donuts (13)! 
Fruit juices do not need to be so sweet - products with less sugars are available if you read the label: for example Innocent 100% Apple Juice for Kids contains 15.6g of sugars per 200ml, a third (32%) less than Morrison’s Apple Juice From Concentrate which has 22.8g of sugars per 200ml. 

Even though there is absolutely no need to add sugar to a product made with fruit, a quarter (59) of those surveyed also contained sugar or glucose-fructose syrup as an ADDED ingredient.  Fruit when consumed ‘whole’ is both naturally sweet and good for you, as it contains fibre and vitamins.  When processed into fruit juice drinks, the sugars (fructose) in the fruit cell walls are released as ‘free sugars’ which damage your teeth and provide unnecessary calories; you take in more calories without feeling full (i.e. A 200ml glass of orange juice can contain 3 oranges (14)).   
Current UK guidelines state that a small (150ml) glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice can count as one of your ‘5 a Day’ (15).  This recommendation is wrong and should be withdrawn. Only six products are actually sold in 150ml portion size packaging, which is of no help to parents trying to make a healthy choice for their children.

Chairman of Action on Sugar, Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London says, ‘It is a complete scandal that these drinks are marketed to children and parents as if they are ‘healthy’: this has to stop.  We need to stop Britain’s childhood obesity epidemic spiralling out of control.”
Emeritus Professor of Dental Public Health, University College London, Aubrey Sheiham says, "It is very disappointing to see that, despite claims by manufacturers of children’s juices that they would reduce the amounts of free sugars in juices, they still have so much free sugars. These juices rot children's teeth and give children a ‘sweet tooth’ that will affect their general health in later life."  
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, Simon Capewell says, "When will our politicians finally do the Right Thing? Kids deserve more protection from sugary drinks. Sugary drink duties are now working in the US, Mexico and Europe. Why not protect our kids as well?"

Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of Action on Sugar, at the Wolfson Institute says “Our advice is to eat the fruit, don’t drink the juice.  Juice should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink. These processed drinks are laden with sugars and calories and do not have the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables.”  

Kawther Hashem, Nutritionist of Action on Sugar, at the Wolfson Institute says: “It is highly concerning that many parents are still buying fruit juices and juice drinks for their children thinking they are choosing healthy products; children should be given as little juice as possible. What is more concerning are the products with added sugar and glucose-fructose syrup. We call on all manufacturers to stop adding more sugars to already sweet juices, particularly in children’s products.”  
Tips for #lesssugar:

Parents are today being urged to make more informed food and drink switches such as; diluting fruit juice with water, opting for unsweetened juices, only giving them to children during meals, as well as limiting portions to a small glass, 150ml, a day or much better - drink water and eat whole fruit and vegetables. 
Please click here for the full press release [PDF 191KB]