Action on Sugar, the bastard offspring of Consensus Action on Salt, has noticed that dried fruit contains sugar. As with every utterance from the pressure group, the BBC thinks this is newsworthy. Based on an unpublished undergraduate research project, Action on Sugar says that 85 per cent of fruit snacks’ contain more sugar than 100 grammes of Haribo sweets – ‘with some containing over 4 teaspoons of sugar!’, as the excitable press release proclaims.
In these intellectually stunted times, a teaspoon of sugar is rapidly becoming a unit of harm that requires no further explanation. To be clear, a teaspoon of sugar only contains 16 calories. As an adult male, I am told I need 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. A ten year old child requires 2,000 calories. If a ‘fruit snack’ contains 64 calories, I think we can handle it.
If we must talk about fructose and glucose in terms of ‘teaspoons’ of sugar – and if four teaspoons is a hazardous amount – it should be said that there are six teaspoons in an orange and five teaspoons in an apple.
The logical conclusion to Action on Sugar’s crusade would be to tell people to stop eating fruit, but since this would make even most sympathetic observer question their credibility, they are not prepared to do so. If they demanded ‘punitive taxes’ (their words) on oranges because they contain more sugar than Haribo, the penny might drop that we are in the midst of an obsessive and puritanical campaign.
Instead, they condone fruit-eating on the basis that fruit contains fibre, but if you want fibre, there are plenty of better foods to eat, many of which contain those evil carbohydrates that Action on Sugar so dislike. A more sensible reason to choose apples over Jelly Babies is that fruit contains vitamin C, but Action on Sugar are reluctant to say this because you can get vitamin C from drinking fruit juice and they don’t want you to do that either.
I suspect that the real reason Action on Sugar turn a blind eye to sugar in whole fruit is that it is very difficult to claim that apples and pears have been ‘spiked’ with sugar by ‘Big Food’. They cannot be included in the Orwellian sugar reduction strategy that they want the government to enforce, despite the fact that the dominant sugar in fruit – fructose – is the one that they claim is worst for you. Consequently, they are forced to make a specious distinction between dried fruit sold in a plastic bag and whole fruit sold by a grocer. In terms of sugar, there is no distinction to be made.
Most of the products examined by Action on Sugar do not contain any added sugar and it is misleading to suggest that they contain ‘teaspoons’ of anything. They are sweet because they contain naturally occurring fructose and glucose, the quantities of which are no greater than you would find in many pieces of whole fruit. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Mother Nature.