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Warning issued on high sugar content in snacks

Many muffins contain six teaspoons of sugar or more

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 26 March 2018

Public health campaigners have called for urgent action to change high sugar content in snack food being sold by leading food and drink manufacturers.

In a new analysis* by Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), researchers found there was huge variation in sugar content, portion size and lack of nutrition labelling on blueberry muffins sold at outlets in the UK’s busiest train stations and supermarkets.

National recommendations are that children aged 4-6 years have no more than the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar per day, no more than six teaspoons for those aged 7-10 and no more than seven for those aged 11 years and older. Adults are also advised not to consume more than the equivalent of seven teaspoons a day.

For the survey, researchers bought three blueberry muffins from seven coffee outlets found at the busiest train stations in the UK who did not provide nutrition information online or in store (AMT Coffee, Camden Food Co., Delice de France, Patisserie Valerie, Pumpkin, Ritazza and Upper Crust).

These were sent to Kent Scientific Services for analysis to measure the sugar content per muffin.

At the same time, nutrient values for other outlets found at these stations (Caffe Nero, Costa, Starbucks, EAT, Pret A Manger, Benugo and McDonald’s), were obtained online from their respective websites.

Data for supermarket muffins was collected in stores or online from each of the nine major supermarket chains (Aldi, ASDA, Co-Op, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose).

On average, muffins bought at railway station food outlets had 19% more sugar per portion and were 32% bigger than those bought in supermarkets.

Almost two thirds (61%) of all the muffins included in the survey contained six teaspoons of sugar or more.

Researchers found there was a lack of nutrition labelling on products sold at popular outlets in train stations and in supermarket bakeries.

Sugar content varied significantly, with a McDonalds blueberry muffin and a Pret A Manger double berry muffin both containing the equivalent of eight teaspoons of sugar, while there were only three teaspoons in each M&S blueberry muffin.

Both groups said they supported the government’s sugar reformulation programme and urged all food manufacturers, retailers and the out of home sector to reformulate their products to meet Public Health England’s 20% reduction target by 2020.

They also called for front-of-pack traffic-light nutrition labelling to be mandatory across all products.

Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance lead, said: “There is huge variation in both the size of muffins and the sugar content; and with limited nutrition labelling it’s all too easy to eat a huge amount of sugar in just one serving. Industry must step up to the plate and take responsibility for making the food they produce healthier.”

*Blueberry Muffins Survey. A report by Obesity Health Alliance and Action of Sugar, March 2018.

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