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UK supermarket lunchtime meal deals criticised for containing up to 30 teaspoons of sugar

| International retailers

A study by health campaign group ‘Action on Sugar’ has revealed that some lunchtime meal deals sold in supermarkets contain up to 30 teaspoons of sugar – the same amount as in 79 chocolate fingers.

Action on Sugar is calling for supermarkets and retailers to take responsibility for the large amounts of sugar they’re selling to consumers by excluding all ‘high’ sugar drinks and confectionery (i.e. those that would have a ‘red’ traffic light label) sold as part of their meal deals.

The survey found that certain food and drink combinations contain more than four times an adult’s daily maximum intake of ‘free’ sugars (30g / 7 tsp) in just a single lunch.

From the meal deals surveyed, the combination containing the highest amount of sugar was from WHSmith which included a sandwich plus the option of a Mountain Dew Citrus Blast 500ml drink and a bag of Skittles Crazy Sours which contains over 30 teaspoons of sugar.  Action on Sugar highlighted that if someone was to eat this meal deal every day over a working week, they would be consuming more than a 1lb of sugar.

Other examples from the campaign group included Tesco’s Smokehouse Pulled Chicken with Mesquite Style Sauce with a Monster Energy 500ml drink and Mars Duo – with nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar.  Morrisons’ Sweet Chilli Chicken Wrap with Relentless Passion Punch Energy 500ml drink and Millionaire Shortbread was not far behind, with 28 teaspoons of sugar and 1,048 kcal.

The findings have been launched to coincide with Sugar Awareness Week (30th October – 5th November).  Action on Sugar highlights that low sugar meal deal options are available with some combinations containing less than one teaspoon of sugar.  However, it said the majority of retailers are failing to promote healthy choices to their consumers.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, commented: “Eating too much sugar is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and tooth decay. Supermarkets pretend to be on the side of their customer’s health to encourage loyalty, but this survey clearly shows that they are not. The government now needs to take decisive action to ban all promotions of unhealthy foods.”

Responding to the study, Gavin Partington, Director General at British Soft Drinks Association, said: “The soft drinks industry recognises it has role to play in sugar reduction which is why we have been investing in reformulation for many years. Since 2013 we have reduced sugar intake from our products by 17%. As well as reformulating our products, we have increased the range of portion sizes available to include smaller pack sizes; we have switched marketing spend to lower and no sugar products; and we provide clear ‘front of pack’ nutrition labelling. As an industry we remain committed to working with Government to help consumers make informed choices.”

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