Fizzy drink sugar levels vary dramatically between countries, says survey

The US, UK, Canada and Germany are among the countries included in the survey

Research highlighting the variation in soft drink sugar content around the world – a difference of as much as 29g sugar (7 teaspoons) per 330ml for the same brand in different countries - has been released by campaign group Action on Sugar. 

It wants to see international sugar reduction targets set by manufacturers, slamming the ‘shockingly high and unnecessary levels of free sugars’ found in sugar-sweetened soft drinks around the globe.

88% of the drinks surveyed were found to contain more than the daily recommendation of sugar (25g) in a 330ml can, says the group.

Surveyed: Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta

Action on Sugar’s research reviewed 274 sugar-sweetened soft drinks from around the world, including Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Pepsi, Fanta Orange, and 7UP. By standardising the serving size to 330ml, a regular can size, it could compare brands.  

As an example, Sprite in Thailand was found to contain 47g of sugar per 330ml serving, the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar. Meanwhile, Sprite in Poland and Austria contains 19g of sugar, the same as five teaspoons of sugar.  

Fanta Orange: sugar per 330ml

India: 43g
Vietnam: 43g
Ecuador: 43g
Thailand: 41g
US: 41g
New Zealand: 41g
Australia: 37g
Singapore: 36g
Germany: 30g
UK: 23g
Source: Action on Sugar

The greatest variation was found in Schweppes Tonic Water. In the US the product was found to contain 45g of sugar per 330ml serving, equating to 11 teaspoons of sugar. In Argentina, this product contains 16g of sugar, the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar.

The differences were less extreme, but still marked, in Coca Cola. In the survey Canada’s Coca-Cola had 39g of sugar; in the US this was 36g, in the UK 35g, and Thailand 32g.

So why the disparity in sweetness? “Drinks producers may say it’s customer preference, but we don't believe this to be true,” a spokesperson told BeverageDaily.

Thailand, for example, has huge variations in the sugar content of its drink products. If Thai people preferred sweet drinks why aren't all the products in Thailand sweet?”

In four out of seven cases, the highest free sugar content per 330ml was found in North America (US or Canada). European countries had the lowest sugar content out of those surveyed.

High sugar levels

Action on Sugar, the UK-based campaign group, says supermarkets in the country have agreed to reformulate sugar sweetened soft drinks in their own programmes.

In May Tesco committed to a 5% reduction on sugar in its soft drink range. In July it announced it would no longer stock children’s lunchbox drinks with added sugar, including Capri Sun and Ribena.  

Action on Sugar is calling on branded soft drink manufacturers to create similar sugar reduction programmes.

The group says sugar-sweetened soft drinks are linked to rising worldwide obesity and type 2 diabetes. By 2030, around 2.16bn people will be overweight, and 1.12bn of these obese.

The World Health Organisation’s guidelines recommend adults and children limit their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of the total energy intake, while promoting a further reduction to around 5% (around 25g or 6 teaspoons) a day. 

The full data from Action on Sugar's research is available here. 

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