Two-thirds of packaged foods in Canada have added sugars

January 16, 2017 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Two-thirds of packaged foods in Canada have added sugars

An analysis of packaged foods and beverages in Canada has found that 66 per cent of these products -- including some infant formulas and baby food products and many so-called 'healthier' foods such as yogurt, juice, breakfast cereals and snack bars -- have at least one added sugar in their ingredients list. That's according to new research from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the University of Waterloo.

The research examined the ingredients of 40,829 packaged foods and beverages sold at national supermarket chains. The researchers searched for 30 different added sugar terms -- everything from 'sugar' to dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose and fruit juice concentrate.

Excluded from the analysis were fresh fruits or vegetables, fresh meat, raw ingredients (water, baking ingredients, coffee, tea, fats and oils, etc.) and non-food items (such as natural health products or nutrition and protein supplements).

Added sugars defined

In this study, 'added sugars' were defined as all sugars added to foods by the manufacturer plus the sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. These naturally-occurring sugars are considered 'added sugars' because the fibre, which slows down the absorption of sugar, is removed during processing or is never present in these types of foods (e.g., honey).

Added sugars are particularly concerning as they tend to be consumed in much larger quantities than naturally-occurring sugars found in foods such as bananas or a glass of milk.

Eating and drinking excess amounts of added sugars have been linked with a variety of health problems.

As there is limited research detailing the amount of added sugars in Canada's food supply, this study provides a baseline snapshot of the added sugars in packaged products commonly found in grocery stores.

How much added sugar is too much?

A number of health organizations including the World Health Organization, United States Dietary Guidelines Committee, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada have all recently recommended limiting intakes of added sugars to a maximum of five to 10 per cent of daily calories consumed.

Related: New added sugar guidelines for U.S. kids

Currently, it is difficult for consumers to identify the presence of added sugars using nutrition labels and impossible to identify the amounts of added sugars in packaged foods. Health Canada recently proposed changes to nutrition labelling, however these changes will not include stating the grams of added sugars on the nutrition facts box.

That's not the case for U.S. food labels. Manufacturers have untl 2018 to comply with new regulations requiring added sugars to be listed on nutrition labels.

Source: CMAJ Open, January 12, 2017.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.