Remarkable: The Royal Society goes anti-sugar

The Royal Society is a scientific body.  To see it enter advocacy is a real problem to me.

New Zealand should look at making it mandatory for food labels to include the amount of added sugar, the Royal Society says.

The society, which represents top scholars and scientists, has just put out a fact sheet with the latest evidence about the sweetener’s health risks.

It said the issue was urgent, given a third of adults and 11 percent of children aged between two to 14 are obese.

Society president Richard Bedford said it was difficult for people to know how much sugar they were consuming.

“With a typical can of sugar-sweetened fizzy drink containing nine teaspoons of sugar, and sugar added to a wide range of food products in New Zealand … it is likely that many New Zealanders are exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines regularly, if not every day.”

89% of children are just fine.   And of the 11% remaining, all 11% are due to sugar?  Not fat?  Not lack of exercise?  Not shit parenting?   This problem – and it is one – is not solved by hitting 89% of the kids over the head for something they’re not doing in the first place, and placing compliance costs and other overheads onto industry when there is absolutely zero indication that it actually makes a practical difference. 

Professor Bedford said there was a lot of research under way to determine whether different sugars have different affects on health.

“There is growing evidence that fructose has a role in several diseases, including gout development, which is of particular interest to New Zealand given the high prevalence of gout in New Zealand’s Pacific Island population.”

The fact sheet said the US Food and Drug Administration had made it compulsory to include added sugars in grams and as a percentage of the daily diet to food labels in the US from 2018.

It said at present there was no move to do the same in this country, but it would encourage a similar move in New Zealand.

Want to drink coke?  You can choose from Diet, Zero, and that green bottle as well as the old fashioned one.  Industry has already responded to the market.  Customers can already choose to buy or not buy.

And yet these people think that putting an extra line on the nutritional information panel is going to save some of those 11% of children that can’t make good life choices right now?

“NO added fat!”  “NO added sugar”.  Go have a look at products that claim those, and see what they will do to your health if ingested regularly.

But in the end, Royal Society, you are not an advocacy body.  Go down that path and you’ll end up facing an argument from industry that goes beyond science.



  • Second time around

    The Royal Society of NZ Act (1997 revision) section “Functions” part 6e reads:

    “to provide expert advice on important public issues to the Government and the community”.

    That means it is one of the functions of the society, even if we may disagree with the particular advice. In the present case it is to give nutritional information on retail food. Vast sums are spent on packaging and promoting processed food any, and any responsible producer would be happy to provide nutritional information that would be of interest or benefit to its customers.

  • To be honest, I would prefer to have more detailed nutritional information on food packaging. This would allow me, as a consumer to make a more informed decision about what I am choosing to eat.
    And that is where it should stop. Give me the information and then leave it to me to make the call if I want to consume (or let my kids consume) that volume of sugar/salt/whatever is in the food.

    • Sailor Sam

      I await research on how good/bad all those numbered ingredients are in processed food.

  • BigNose

    I have no concern with their being information available for people to make up their own mind. What I have issue with is big mouths deciding what is right or wrong for me. Put the information there, then let adults decide themselves.

  • JohnO

    The main source of the sugar fructose in our diet is fruit. Professor Bedford mentions it as a probable cause of several diseases including gout. I am not expecting calls for mandatory labelling of the sugar content of Bananas, apples, oranges, pears and other fresh fruit because that would be politically unwise. Instead they are going to go for soft drinks. I am well aware of the dangers of sugar myself and we have not had fruit juice or soft drinks in the house for years. We eat lots of fresh fruit.

    • Second time around

      Fruit and vegetables have positive nutritional value despite or in addition to the starch and sugar content. There is a lot not known about nutrition, but it is probably true that the sugar you have chosen not to eat can never harm you.

    • Rebecca

      A peach has 5.9g of fructose, a nectarine has 5.4g, an apricot has less than 1.5g, a pear has 11.8g and a mango has over 30g. More than 50g of fructose/day is known to be detrimental, so you could safely eat a dozen apricots or 8 nectarines or 5 apples/day without hitting 50g. Even if the recommendation is only 25g, you can eat a lot of fruit if you choose wisely.

      IMHO the bigger risk is hidden fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup added to lots of processed foods that aren’t even sweet. Not so much in NZ so far, but prevalent elsewhere. Even coke has more high fructose corn syrup than sucrose in many places. At one stage NZ was remarkable for still using mostly sucrose, but it’s worth looking at the label if you’re buying food in a package.

  • oldmanNZ

    So, also, according to my bmi, i am obese.

    I dont have a pot belly
    I can lift 100 kg
    Work like 9 hours a day physically,

    Eat a lot of rice and veges, and occasionally drink a can of coke…

    So this one can of coke, had made my obese…
    Ohh my god,

    Why wasn’t i warned.

  • XCIA

    I am over all the advice by academia. They come out one year with what they say is an absolute truth which is super-ceded the next year by “new thinking”. Following blood tests a while ago, it was determined I was borderline in the diabetic scale. I attended upon the practice expert for dietary and exercise management where she handed me an official publication with about 80% of it crossed out. She advised the “thinking” had changed since the publication went to print. I did not change anything in my lifestyle and the next blood tests three months later were fine.

  • Rodney_Hide

    The best dietary advice may well be if it has a label, don’t eat it!!

    Rodney Hide