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Action on Sugar

Children's juices

23rd March 2016

Almost half the products assessed contained at least a child’s entire daily-recommended maximum sugar intake of 19g  (almost five teaspoons)
• NEW UK guidelines extends the recommendation that only a 150ml serving of fruit juice counts as one of the 5 A DAY to smoothies
• Government urged to include drink reformulation and restrict children’s drinks to only 150ml bottles/cartons as part of long overdue Childhood Obesity Strategy, says Action on Sugar

For media coverage: 

Sugars levels in seemingly healthy children’s fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies (1) are unnecessarily high – with large variation between different types of juices – according to a NEW paper published in the BMJ Open on 24 March 2016 (2).  

On the back of the BMJ research, Action on Sugar is calling on the government to introduce a regulated reformulation programme to reduce sugar content by 50% within the next 5 years, starting immediately with sugar-sweetened soft drinks and restrict children’s drinks to only 150ml bottles/cartons, as part of the Childhood Obesity Strategy scheduled for the summer.

Sugary drinks including fruit juices are one of the main contributors to excess sugar consumption amongst children and adults in the UK (3).  The research found that almost half the products assessed contained at least a child’s entire daily-recommended maximum sugar intake of 19g – almost five teaspoons! Furthermore, the average sugars content among the 158 juice drinks analysed is 5.6g/ 100ml and is significantly higher in the in the 21 pure fruit juices assessed (10.7g/100ml) and the 24 smoothies (13g/ 100ml) (4).

NEW UK guidelines extends the advice that only a 150ml serving of fruit juice counts as one of the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to smoothies – which previously contributed to two 5 A DAY portions. This is in acknowledgement of the high sugar content of smoothies (5).  The research found that only six products were actually sold in 150ml bottles/cartons, which is of no help to parents trying to make a healthy choice for their children (6).

Even though there is absolutely no need to add sugar to a product made with fruit, a quarter (57) of those surveyed also contained sugar (sucrose) or glucose-fructose syrup as an ADDED ingredient.  Fruit when consumed ‘whole’ is both naturally sweet and healthy for you, as it contains fibre and vitamins.  When processed into fruit juice drinks, the sugars (fructose) in the fruit cell walls are released as ‘free sugars’ (7) which damage your teeth and provide unnecessary calories; you take in more calories without feeling full (i.e. A 200ml glass of orange juice can contain 3 oranges).   

Co-author of the study Kawther Hashem, Registered Nutritionist and Researcher of Action on Sugar
 says: “It is highly concerning that many parents are still buying fruit juices and juice drinks for their children thinking they are choosing healthy products; children should be given as little juice as possible (maximum of 150ml/day). These juices rot children's teeth and give children a ‘sweet tooth’ that will affect their general health in later life.

“What is more concerning are the products with added sugar and glucose-fructose syrup. We call on all manufacturers to stop adding more sugars to already sweet juices, particularly in children’s products and to restrict children’s drinks to only 150ml bottles/cartons.

“Our advice is to eat the fruit, don’t drink the juice.  Juice should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink. These processed drinks are laden with sugars and calories and do not have the same nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables.”  

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Chair of Action on Sugar
 says: “Cameron now has all the evidence to make the UK the first country in the world to stop the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic.  To do this Cameron has to be radical and follow every single action that we have set out in our comprehensive plan. Otherwise it will be the final nail in an already bankrupt NHS.”

For more information contact:
National PR - David Clarke @ Rock PR:
M: 07773 225516

Notes to Editors

1. Fruit juice - ‘100% pure juice made from the flesh of fresh fruit or from whole fruit. It is not permitted to add sugars, sweeteners, preservatives, flavourings or colourings to fruit juice’.
 Juice drinks - Juice drinks are ‘1% to 99% juice, nectars, still flavoured waters, sports drinks and iced teas’.
Smoothies - usually contain crushed fruit, purees and fruit. A smoothie labelled as "fruit juice" may contain no other added ingredients.

2. Embargoed link to research:

Public link once embargo lifts:

3. Public Health England. Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action -

4. Average sugars content of products included
Category Mean sugars (g/100 ml)
Juice drinks 5.6
Fruit juice 10.7
Smoothies 13.0
Total 7.0

5. Public Health England. New Eatwell Guide illustrates a healthy, balanced diet -

6. 150ml Tesco Pure Orange Juice contains 12.3g sugars -

7. Free sugars – includes sugars that are added to food, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates, not sugars in milk products and whole fruit & vegetables.

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