How can I find out how much sugars are in my pre-packaged food or drink?

Posted 12 January 2015

Labels on products are a great place to find out what’s in your foods and drinks. Labels on the back (or side) of a pack always show the list of ingredients (in descending order of weight), as well as the total sugars contained in the product per 100g or per 100ml of product. Labels sometimes also show this information per portion or as per the country’s daily dietary amount guidelines. When looking at labels, sugars most commonly present in food and drinks are glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose and maltose – collectively they are known as ‘sugars’ and this term is used in nutritional labelling on pack: ‘carbohydrate – of which sugars’. Food labels in most countries do not currently identify ‘added sugars’ (i.e. sugars that have been added during food and drink manufacturing). It is not possible to distinguish naturally occurring sugars from added sugars in a laboratory given they are the same molecules. However, some countries are now moving towards ‘added sugars’ labelling. For example, the US started to introduce ‘added sugars’ onto labels of pre-packaged food and drink products from January 2020 with the aim of updating all appropriate product labels by 1 July 2021. ‘Added sugars’ on US labels will include sugars that are added during the processing of foods, as well as sugars from added syrups, honey and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.