Can sugar be hidden in pre-packaged food and drinks?

Posted 07 August 2014

No. Sugar can never be hidden in pre-packaged food or drinks, subject to labelling requirements. Food labels on the back (or side) of a pack typically 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.