Action on Sugar (AoS) has claimed many of these ‘Healthy’ fruit snacks are loaded with sugars with some containing the equivalent of nearly five teaspoons per serving.
The group accused food manufacturers of hiding behind the health messages to obscure the fact that processed fruit-based snacks are as unhealthy as sweets and sugary drinks.
In May, AoS sent a list of demands to Government after a link was made between Coronavirus and Obesity.
The campaign group is calling for the Government to ensure its front of pack labelling (FOPL) consultation results in mandatory labelling that reflects the latest dietary advice on free sugars, not total sugars.
AoS highlighted that processed dried fruit products were marketed as ‘healthy snacks’ due to their high fruit content. However, the sugars in these products are categorised by Public Health England as ‘free sugars’ as they contain purees, concentrates, juices and extruded fruit or added sugar by coating or flavouring dried fruit.
The group said as current labelling was based on total sugars many parents were mistakenly buying these processed fruit snacks assuming they contributed less ‘unhealthy’ sugars than they did.
Analysing the data of the 56 coated, flavoured, processed or extruded fruit-based products sold across leading grocery retailers AoS found 57% had more free sugars per 100g than a well-known branded sugar confectionery product. However, 65% had the equivalent of at least two teaspoons of sugars in a single portion – the same as eating an iced doughnut.
Graham MacGregor CBE, chairman of Action on Sugar, professor of cardiovascular medicine, Queen Mary University of London, said: “Whilst the Government gets to grips with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it mustn’t ignore that the situation is fuelling the UK’s other pandemics – obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and tooth decay – all linked to high sugar intakes which the food industry is solely responsible for
“It’s imperative that whichever organisation takes over from Public Health England ensure comprehensive and compulsory reformulation targets are set across the whole of the food industry to gradually reduce the amount of sugar and excess calories in food and drink.”
Stop tricking parents
Katharine Jenner, campaign director of Action on Sugar, Queen Mary University of London said: “The message to food manufacturers is quite simple: stop tricking parents into thinking your products are healthy. The only information about nutrition that should be on children’s foods is the nutrition information panel and the colour-coded (‘traffic light’) front of pack label.
“However, manufacturers are hiding behind health halos of messages such as ‘made with real fruit’ and ‘no added sugars’ to obscure the fact that processed fruit-based snacks are as unhealthy as sweets and sugary drinks. Parents are struggling to feed their children healthy food already without manufacturers making the process even more confusing. It’s time to be honest about what’s in your products and remove these claims.”
Meanwhile, the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) responded to the calls.
CEO, Tim Rycroft, said: “As identified by the survey, products made of pureed or extruded fruit will contain sugar as sugar naturally occurs in fruit. The products will all have an ingredients list, so a parent can identify if the product is just fruit or contains other ingredients. It will also have a nutrition declaration which will give the total sugar content, regardless of whether this comes from fruit or is added separately.
"All nutrition labelling information, including the UK government’s ‘traffic light’ label, can only use adult reference intakes. There are no children’s reference intakes defined by law. When products are clearly aimed at younger children, companies have to decide whether it is appropriate to include an adult-based front of pack scheme.”