Magazine article Marketing

Bitter Words on a Sweet Subject

Magazine article Marketing

Bitter Words on a Sweet Subject

Article excerpt

Bitter words on a sweet Subject

Clive Rutherford and Jack Winkler are never likely to agree. The chairman of the Sugar Bureau and the chairman of Action and Information on Sugars (AIS) are locked in perpetual battle about the merits or otherwise of that other innocuous looking white powder -- sugar. Controversy has dogged the run up to the publication of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) report earlier this month. For the first time, the Government laid down Dietary

"There has been a vigorous and highly-orchestrated anti-sugar campaign in the media over the past few weeks. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) leaks, backed up by emotive statements from Action and Information on Sugars (AIS), predicted the report would call for swingeing cuts in consumption.

It is now more than three weeks since COMA was published and the recommendation calling for a reduction in consumption of refined sugars continues to be wildly misreported in the media.

|I am concerned at the misrepresentation and gross exaggerations' -- not my words, but a statement two days after publication from Dr Roger Whitehead, chairman of the COMA Committee.

The sugar industry is understandably annoyed at much of the media coverage following publication for three main reasons.

COMA urges everyone to reduce intake of refined sugars yet admits there is scant scientific evidence to support this. This wasn't highlighted by the press.

The recommendation to reduce intake of refined sugars was made for the sake of the nation's dental health, and for this reason only as Dr Whitehead has stressed. Once again the dental health issue was barely mentioned.

And, despite attempts by Dr Whitehead and others to spell out the exact figures involved, the media has continued to misquote exactly what the recommendation means.

The recommendation for a cut is not directed at all sugars consumed, which account for about 18% on average of total energy intake, but at refined sugars, which account for about 13% of total energy intake.

In order to reduce tooth decay further, COMA recommended this average should be reduced to 11%. As Dr Whitehead says: "If everyone accepts a modest reduction, this target can be met easily."

The 11% average is not a maximum figure. Some people will be eating very much more, and some very much less. Indeed, they would have to be in order to achieve the 11% average.

Again, Dr Whitehead stressed that there was absolutely nothing wrong with consuming above this amount, provided the average for the population as a whole was around 11%.

The report accepts that it recommended a reduction in refined sugars because of the link between sucrose and tooth decay reported in the 1989 COMA report.

It also accepts that there is no hard evidence to support such a quantitative reduction. The recommendation is based on the supposition, quoted in COMA, that countries with a refined sugar consumption of less than 20kg per person per year have very low levels of tooth decay. This is simply not the case.

Certainly some countries with consumption at or below this level have very low incidence of tooth decay, but equally there are others where tooth decay is a serious problem.

Equally, Britain is often accused of being Europe's largest sugar consumer which is why the nation's dental health is so bad, and once again this is a complete fallacy.

Britain is fifth in the European sugar consumption table and most of the countries which eat more also have far better dental health. Switzerland, which consumes a third more sugar than the UK, actually has the lowest incidence of tooth decay in the whole of Europe.

Equally, it is far too simplistic to say that sugar causes tooth decay, so cut down on sugar and tooth decay will cease to be a problem. All fermentable carbohydrates, not just refined sugars, can cause tooth decay. …

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