EU Science Hub

Towards the reduction of added sugars in food

Oct 22 2018

JRC scientists have compiled a report with estimates of the sugars content of several food and drink categories in 2015. It provides a baseline to assist with the monitoring of progress on food product reformulation. This supports the EU target to reduce added sugars by a minimum of 10% by 2020. 

In 2015, the EU Member States (MS) set a benchmark for added sugars reduction of a minimum of 10% by 2020 in food products against the MS baseline levels at the end of 2015.

This complements the general EU Framework for National Initiatives on Selected Nutrients and serves as a tool to support and reinforce national policies and guide voluntary actions, such as food reformulation within the EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity and health.

The report launched today by the JRC provides a baseline for 2015, from which future monitoring of the progress of food product reformulation could be evaluated.

Monitoring initiatives are already underway in many EU Member States in addition to collaborative efforts.

The Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity (JANPA) is one of such efforts and aims to provide guidance and some degree of harmonisation through the sharing and promotion of best practices between the countries in the European Union.

The work of the JRC complements and supports these activities, providing a broad geographical coverage overlaying harmonised market and food composition databases.

The overall aim is to reduce the diet-related health burden.

Independent and methodologically solid monitoring of activities on food reformulation, portion sizes and more generally of the food on offer to EU consumers is key towards reducing this burden. As Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, has said: "What gets measured gets done".

The new JRC report provides estimates for total sugars content for 22 European (20 EU) markets, as indicated on labels and required by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, for the categories soft drinks, breakfast cereals and dairy products.

Through the calculation of sugars volumes sold within different product groups, it identifies particular subgroupings that provide high shares of sugars supplied through food and drink and that could play a critical role in sugars intakes reduction efforts within the EU.

Furthermore, computing volume sales-weighted averages of total sugars content across product groups, the report highlights the importance of targeting for reformulation not only products that are highest in sugars, but also those that occupy leading market positions making them prime candidates for achieving maximum impact on population level sugars intakes. In some instances these two coincide, indicating concrete potential for an impact on sugars intake, through the improvement of these product categories.     

Support to monitoring is ongoing within the JRC and insights for sound monitoring will also be gained through future updates on the progress of reformulation based on data for 2018 and 2020.

Monitoring science activities will also be complemented by additional considerations, such as analyses of packaging trends in relation to portion size choices and assessments of potential impacts on nutrient intakes, overall diet quality and health using modelling and other approaches. 

Read more in: Robinson M, Caldeira S and Wollgast J, Sugars content in selected foods in the EU. A 2015 baseline to monitor sugars reduction progress, EUR 28822 EN, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2018, ISBN 978-92-79-74140-1, doi:10.2760/642047, PUBSY No. 108670

A structured overview on sugars and sweeteners

JRC scientists are constantly developing the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway.

A chapter on sugars and sweeteners, was recently added.

This covers, for example,

  • Dietary intake of sugars,
  • Effects of sugars and sweeteners on health,
  • Recommendations at national, EU and international level.