Eco tester: Hidden sugar in almost all food products

Eco tester: Hidden sugar in almost all food products

Food manufacturers use numerous tricks to disguise the sugar content
Hidden sugar can be found in numerous food products. According to a recent test by the magazine “Ökotest”, hidden sugar is contained in almost all ready meals. "There is a lot of sugar in ready-made pizza, potato salad and currywurst," reports "Ökotest". In their investigation, the testers exposed the manufacturers' tricks of hiding the sugar. "If you want to avoid sugar, you have to learn a lot of vocabulary", is the conclusion of "Ökotest".

The high sugar content of food is often obscured and it is difficult for consumers to understand how much sugar is hidden in the food. For example, Katjes' yogurt gums are advertised in the advertisement by ex-top model Heidi Klum with the sentence: "Everything without fat!" Here the advertisement disguises the fact that the bags are full of sugar - 52 percent in the Katjes case, the message said from "Ökotest". Since the high sugar content in food has fallen into disrepute, the industry has been trying to hide the sweetness of the food. This is mainly used as a cheap flavor carrier. The experts from “Ökotest” uncover the tricks of the food industry in disguising the sugar content.

First trick: using different types of sugar
First of all, many manufacturers use a simple method to declare the ingredients so that the sugar does not come first on the list of ingredients due to the quantities it contains. They use different types of sugar, which are then listed individually below in the list of ingredients. Just a look at the nutrition declaration shows that sugar is the main ingredient. The ingredients actually have to be declared in quantitative order in descending order, but because many manufacturers do not simply use "sugar", but rather, for example, sweeten with glucose-fructose syrup, invert sugar syrup, dextrose or sweet whey powder, the different types of sugar do not rank first, Rather, it is listed in places 3, 5, 9 and 10 of the ingredients list, reports “Ökotest”.

Second trick: use of "natural sweetness"
For consumers, the statement "only natural sweetness" sounds relatively healthy, although the experts from "Ökotest" point out that "in many cases it is not the natural sweetness from milk, vegetables or fruit, but highly concentrated, dried, partly processed powders ”. These would serve only one purpose: to sweeten. The widely used “fruit sweetness” is one such example. It is "nothing more than a mixture of fructose and glucose, which in terms of nutritional physiology is largely equivalent to table sugar", reports "Ökotest". Chemically speaking, table sugar is also a disaccharide, i.e. a double sugar that consists of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Even if the rumor persists that fructose is preferable to conventional sugar, "certain types of sugar are not healthier or better than others", quotes "Ökotest", the expert from the German Nutrition Society (DGE), Antje Gahl.

Third trick: Different names
As already mentioned, manufacturers often use different types of sugar, which allows them to be placed further down on the list of ingredients. Often sweeteners are used here, which do not suggest a connection with sugar. With the direct name "sugar" or "syrup" it is clear to most consumers what it is. However, many manufacturers use sweetness ", which is based on terms such as maltodextrin, oligofructose or dextrose," reports "Ökotest". First of all, consumers have to learn a variety of words to avoid sugar.

Fourth trick: "less fat" and "less sweet"
Sugar and fat are key flavor carriers in many convenience foods. If the content of one ingredient is reduced, more must usually be added by the other to compensate for the loss of taste. That is why the term "less fat" often means "more sugar", reports "Ökotest". The "less sweet" award is far from being synonymous with "little sweet". In terms of food law, this term means nothing other than “30 percent less sweet” than a reference food, the experts explain. Therefore, “less sweet” could mean that more than half of the product is sugar.

Fifth trick: Small portion sizes as a reference quantity
The information on the content of fat, sugar or salt on the food is usually related to the recommended daily amount of the respective ingredient. However, the reference quantity relates to a portion of the food and the smaller a manufacturer measures it, the smaller the proportion of the food in the total daily amount. The amount of sugar consumed can easily be reduced by reducing the portion size accordingly. “Ökotest” names half the pizza as a popular example for quickly visually halving fat and salt contents. Even more brazen is the common trick of printing the “reference amount for an average adult” on a children's food. According to "Ökotest", the EU reference amount for sugar is 90 grams per day, which corresponds to about 30 pieces of sugar cubes. However, this information relates to the total sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently recommended that it should not eat more than 25 grams of sugar a day (previously 50 grams), but only refers to the added sugar, while milk, fruit and vegetables are not included.

Hidden sugar in all tested products
For the current investigation, “Ökotest” had 34 food products analyzed in the laboratory for their sugar content, with the result that there was a lot of sugar in all the food tested. “A Meica Curry King Real Meica Currywurst manages almost 100 percent of the stricter WHO recommendation alone; with a bottle of Müller Frucht Buttermilch Multi-Vitamin you can even consume 59.5 grams of sugar, ”reports Ökotest. The manufacturers pull out all the stops when disguising the sugar content. For example, Rewe advertises its "Rewe Best Choice Type Cappuccino" with the label "without added sugar", although almost half of the powder consists of sugary ingredients, emphasizes "Ökotest". The cereal suppliers have calculated the sugar content by specifying 30-gram portions and the reference quantity for adults has also been used here, for example, at Kellogg's Frosties or the Kölln Cereals Magic Spell Honey, although the suppliers specifically address children with colorful cartoon pictures .

Uncover manufacturer tricks
Hidden sugar can also be found in salads, "savory" ready meals, sauces and yoghurts, according to "Ökotest". In the shopping cart, a wide range of foods with a high sugar content can usually be seen, in which consumers expect no or significantly less sugar. Most sweetening ingredients in the test are at Pizza Tradizionale Speciale by Dr. Oetker was determined, however, the manufacturer had already changed the recipe for the pizza dough so that the sugar content is now lower, reports "Ökotest". The study also did not aim to give an overall rating, but rather the experts wanted to reveal, first and foremost, the manufacturers' tricks when it came to sugar hiding. (fp)

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Video: The Truth about Sugar - BBC Production