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Spotting sugar in food labels

Wednesday December 26, 2018
Spotting sugar in food labels

Photo caption: Sugar and sweeteners are commonly found in processed foods.


Sugar comes in many forms and can be referred to in many ways which makes spotting sugar on a food label tricky. The below information will help guide you in what to look for when reading food packaging. 

Sugar, or sugar alternatives are commonly found in processed foods to help make the food taste more appealing or sometimes even as a preservative. As well as providing unwanted calories it can also have a negative impact your health. Alarmingly, even processed foods considered savoury often contain a considerable amount of sugar.


The table below highlights some common foods and the amount of sugar they contain:




A recent survey found that 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets contain added sugars.[i] The prevalence of sugar in foods may be shocking, but food manufacturers use sugars with many different names which makes it hard to know what you are eating, here are just a few:

Names for sugar and sweeteners:

-High-fructose corn syrup
-Corn syrup
-Maple syrup
-Agave nectar or syrup
-Evaporated cane juice
-Barley malt
-Coconut sugar
-Cane sugar
-Fruit juice concentrate
-Grape sugar
-Grape concentrate
-Raw sugar
-Brown sugar
-Demerara sugar 
-Palm sugar
-Brown rice syrup
-Date sugar

Key checks to carry out a label to see how much sugar is in your food:


* Look at the 'carbs as sugars' on the nutrition panel. This includes both natural and added sugars. Less than 5g per 100g is low, more than 15g per 100g is considered high[ii].
* Check the ingredients list for glucose, sucrose, fructose, and all the others mentioned in the above list. These are all forms of sugar and the higher up the ingredients list these are, the more sugar the product will contain.

Author: Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons) ANutr. is Technical Director at Viridian Nutrition.

Viridian Nutrition is the leading supplier of food supplements to specialist independent health food stores. For information about personalised solutions visit



 [i] Ng SW, Slining MM, Popkin BM. Use of caloric and noncaloric sweeteners in US consumer packaged foods, 2005-2009. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Nov;112(11):1828-34.e1-6

[ii] Food Standards Agency. 2016. ‘Guide to creating a front of pack (FoP) nutrition label for pre-packed products sold through retail outlets’. Available at:

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Nutrition News and Viewssugar, sugar detox


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