New research by Action on Sugar has shown over a quarter of seemingly healthy children’s fruit juices, juice drinks, smoothies surveyed (57 of the 203 products) contain the same amount or more sugars than Coca Cola, which contains five teaspoons of sugar per 200ml glass.
With one in five children aged four-five and one in three children aged 10-11 now overweight or clinically obese, and tooth decay being the most common reason for children in England being admitted to hospital, Action on Sugar is urging parents to give children water or whole fruit instead of juice and for manufacturers to reduce the level of sugars in their drinks, and to stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories.
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, including:
- Smoothie: Tesco Goodness Slurper Apple and Banana Fruit Smoothie Snack for kids (eight teaspoons per 200ml equivalent)
- Juice drink: Rubicon Lychee Exotic Juice Drink (seven teaspoons per 200ml equivalent)
- Fruit juice: Asda Chosen by Kids Tropical Juice from concentrate (seven teaspoons per 200ml equivalent).
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.‘
Action on Sugar claims that fruit juices do not need to be so sweet and advises that products with less sugars are available if you read the label.
A quarter of the products surveyed 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’ that can damage your teeth and provide unnecessary calories.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist at Action on Sugar, said: ‘It is not just tooth decay but there is increasing scientific evidence that regular sugary drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of type two diabetes and heart disease, independent of body weight, suggesting we are all vulnerable.
‘Fruit juice and smoothies should not be part of a healthy balanced diet.’
Current UK guidelines state that a small (150ml) glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice can count as one of your ‘five a day’.
Action on Sugar is stating that this recommendation is wrong and should be withdrawn.
It continues by explaining that only six products are actually sold in 150ml portion size packaging, which it claims is of no help to parents trying to make a healthy choice for their children.
Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, 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.’