Consumers might unknowingly be consuming more sugar than expected, with more than 400 different names for added sugars found on packaged food labels.
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the average daily sugar intake for an adult should be around 50g or 12 teaspoons per day.
However, the annual FoodSwitch: State of the Food Supply report found that unknown added sugar in some common foods is causing Australians to consume nearly double the recommended limit.
George Institute dietician Dr Daisy Coyle said this “sneaked-in sugar” – up to 22 teaspoons a day – could be added to many people’s diets without them realizing it.
“Too much sugar contributes to skyrocketing rates of obesity and associated chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes,” she said.
“But while most of us know it’s bad for us, it’s hard to cut back when you can’t know how much the food you’re buying is in. Currently, manufacturers are only required to state total sugars on the product’s nutrition information panel. ”
Researchers at the George Institute used criteria from the government-developed Health Star Rating (HSR) system to rate more than 25,000 packaged foods and drinks sold in supermarkets across Australia.
He revealed that Woolworths own brands still had the highest overall health rating, with Coles and IGA in second place and ALDI the least healthy.
Dr Coyle calls for a new approach to labeling the food supply in an effort to better inform consumers.
“One of the biggest obstacles to the success of the HSR program is that it remains voluntary – we found that only 41% of products displayed an HSR on the packaging – so there is no level playing field” , she said.
“And although the top 20 manufacturers have higher adoption rates, at around 70%, there is huge variation, with (for example) no product showing an HSR on the packaging for more than 96% for products The Smith’s Snackfood Company.”
Dr Coyle said the voluntary HSR system has been in place since 2014, but compliance remains low at around 40%, and it has worsened since last year’s report.
“Most notably, IGA has chosen not to participate in the HSR program at all, despite being one of Australia’s largest retailers,” she said.
The Australian government has set an industry benchmark of 70% compliance by 2025, but this target remains voluntary for food manufacturers to comply with.
However, public consultation is expected to begin on proposed changes to food labels, which would require companies to display added sugar content on the nutrition information panel of their food products.
Dr Coyle said while this was an important step to help Australians make informed choices, any changes would likely take some time to pass.
“Currently, the only way shoppers can determine the amount of added sugar in a product is to download the FoodSwitch app and scan the barcode. This will give an estimate of the added sugar content and suggest healthier alternatives. to go to,” she said. said.
Dr Coyle said shoppers are encouraged to check the labels of the products they buy to find out what they are putting in their mouths.
“Consumers deserve to know what’s in the food they eat, and we strongly support that the amount of added sugar in a product be clearly stated. It could also prompt the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar they pour into processed foods,” Dr Coyle said.
“We don’t want buyers to have to wait years for this information, we want people to be able to make informed choices now – small changes can really add up.”
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