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Cake and biscuit makers failing to hit targets on reducing sugar

By Sally Wardle

The sugar content of similar cakes and biscuits sold in supermarkets varies significantly, researchers have revealed as they called on manufacturers to shake up recipes.

Cakes categorised as Victoria sponges contain anything from 23.4 to 59.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams, according to a study published in journal BMJ Open.

Per slice, the difference between Victoria sponge products can be as much as six teaspoons of sugar.

The amount of energy in similar products also varies widely, the study found, with chocolate swiss rolls containing between 366 calories and 500 calories per 100g.

The findings show it is possible for manufacturers to produce similar cakes with far less sugar and calories, the researchers said.

The Government has called on manufacturers and retailers to cut sugar in products by 20% by 2020 in a bid to tackle soaring rates of childhood obesity.

However, a report by Public Health England (PHE) revealed there had only been a 2% reduction by August 2017, with many companies failing to reformulate products.

This is below the 5% target for the first year of the programme.

Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, co-author of the study, said: "This research clearly shows the levels of sugar and calories in products can be reduced, since there was a large variation in sugar and calorie content within the same category of cakes and biscuits, yet worryingly not all manufacturers are complying.

"If some manufacturers can produce chocolate cake bars with 22% fewer calories per 100g, so can others."

Researchers for Action on Sugar at Queen Mary University of London examined the content of 381 cakes and 481 biscuits sold in nine UK supermarkets in 2016.

Almost all cakes (97%) and three-quarters of biscuits (74%) would receive a 'red' label for sugar, meaning they contain more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g, they found.

Battenberg topped the list of the most sugary cakes available to shoppers.

The marzipan treat contained the highest amount of sugar on average, at 56.4g per 100g, followed by Genoa cakes (45.9g/100g) and red velvet cakes (44.2g/100g).

Plain sponges with chocolate were the most calorific, with an average of 446 calories per 100g.

Among manufacturers which sell five or more cakes, the McVitie's product range had the highest average sugar content (43.1g/100g).

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar and co-author, said: "Large amounts of cakes and biscuits are consumed in the UK, so a reduction in the amount of sugar and calorie content could play an important role in helping prevent obesity and tooth decay."

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