Added sugars on food labels

Agave nectar, demerara and muscovado ... exotic ingredients? No, just added sugar.

Sugar, by any other name

As the Australian government considers recommendations to improve labelling of added sugars in ingredient lists, the US government's Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that all food labels list added sugar content, and show it as a percentage of daily intake in the nutrition information panel (NIP).

This follows the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that we limit our intake of 'free' or added sugars to be no more than 10% of our total energy intake in order to reduce our risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

Australian labelling of added sugars

Here in Australia, the total amount of sugars in a product is listed in the NIP, but it doesn't differentiate sugars that have been added by the manufacturer (including honey, syrups and fruit juices) from those that are intrinsic to the food (such as lactose in milk). Currently the only way to tell that sugars have been added is by checking the ingredients list – the higher up the list, the more sugar the product contains.

But when added sugars can hide behind 60+ different names you may still be none the wiser.

One of the key recommendations to come out of the government's 2011 food labelling review was that where sugars are added as separate ingredients in a food, the term 'added sugars' be used in the ingredient list as the generic term, followed by a bracketed list with further details. For example: added sugars (fructose, glucose syrup, honey).

While it's not as strong as the FDA's proposal, we think it's at least a step in the right direction towards helping consumers make informed choices about the foods they buy.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently providing technical advice to ministers on this recommendation, and it will be voted on soon.

Do you agree that added sugars should be identified on ingredients lists? Join our campaign.

The many names for sugar

  • Agave nectar/syrup
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt extract/syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice/juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Caster sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Coffee sugar crystals
  • Confectioner's sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar/syrup
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Florida crystals
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice/juice concentrate
  • Fruit paste
  • Fruit powder
  • Fruit puree
  • Glucose/glucose syrup
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar/syrup
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Jam
  • Lactose
  • Malt extract/syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Nectar
  • Oat syrup
  • Palm sugar
  • Panela
  • Panocha
  • Rapadura
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner's syrup
  • Rice malt extract/syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado
  • Vegetable juice/juice concentrate
  • White sugar