Fruit drinks marketed at children and considered “healthy” by many people are “unacceptably high” in sugar, new research has found.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool and Queen Mary, University of London, analysed 203 products aimed at children.
They found that 42 per cent of products contained more than the recommended maximum 19g of sugar that children aged between four and six-years-old should have each day.
A further 64 per cent of branded and supermarket own-brand products contained at least 8g of sugar.
Smoothies contained the highest amount of sugars and juice drinks contained the lowest amount.
Under the traffic-light system for marking the contents of food and drink, researchers found that 117 of the drinks would be class as red, or high, in sugar.
As part of his Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry. But the new sugar tax on soft drinks will not be paid on milk-based drinks and fruit juices, the Treasury has said.
Commenting on the study, Dr Gunter Kuhnle, food scientist at the University of Reading, added: “These drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies are often seen as a ‘healthy’ alternative and their sugar content is ignored. This study shows that the average sugar content in fruit juices is similar to that in cola drinks; and the content in smoothies is even higher, by almost three sugar cubes per 300ml serving.
Based on their findings, the researchers make several recommendations:
- Fruit juices/juice drinks/smoothies with a high free sugar content should not count as one of the UK Government’s ‘five a day’ recommendations, as is currently the case.
- Fruit should preferably be eaten whole, not as juice.
- Parents should dilute fruit juice with water or opt for unsweetened juices, and only allow these drinks during meals.
- Portion sizes should be limited to 150 mL/day.
- Manufacturers should stop adding unnecessary amounts of sugars, and therefore kilojoules, to their fruit drink/juice/smoothie products — and if they can’t do this voluntarily, the government should step in with statutory regulations.