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Enlarged obesity predictions could mean bigger sugar warnings

[14 Jan 2014] The UK is gradually waking up to the fact that giant food companies like Nestlé have been stuffing their products with heavy doses of refined sugar – as we reported in Pikestaff 64 and 65 – while presenting themselves as committed to wholesome and ethical food.

Inevitably there have been calls for clearer labelling. The sugary facts are usually stated already on packaging, but buried in a nutritional information box. So if sugar really is public-health enemy number one, as many doctors now suggest, why not single it out for large-print treatment? The sugar-pushers will squeal that this would be almost as complicated as reducing the sugar level in their products. But it would be simple to write a regulation requiring the percentage of sugar to be stated on the front of the packaging in an easily legible font at, say, 60% of the type size of the product name. Then nobody could miss it.

This could be enough to induce an arms race by food firms to reduce their sugar content – assuming people don’t start selecting the highest-sugar products in the belief they are healthier. The words ‘Health warning’ could precede any sugar percentage above, say, 15%.

Even though many people seem to have difficulty understanding percentages, they are probably still the best way of getting the point across, perhaps supported by a small explanatory graphic like a histogram or pie chart. [cont]

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