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Sweeteners in foodstuffs: What is regulated?

Foodstuffs that carry messages such as "less sweet" or "no added sugar" imply that their sugar content is low. But that is not always the case – they may still contain considerable amounts of sugar and other sweeteners. What is meant by these claims and how is it regulated by law?

Regulated by law:

"without added sugar"

The statement "without added sugar" states that no mono- and disaccharides such as glucose or household sugar or other foodstuffs with a sweetening effect (eg, fruit syrup) have been added to the product. Sweetening agents and sugar substitutes on the other hand are allowed. If a foodstuff like fruit muesli contains natural sugar because of its ingredients like fruit, the label should say as much by displaying "contains natural sugar". This is, however, not obligatory.


"reduced sugar content"

This indicates that a product contains at least 30% less sugar than other foodstuffs of the same type. This information is permitted only if the sugar-reduced product also has an energy content that is the same or lower than the product it is compared with. For instance, in a cocoa drink powder some of the sugar can be replaced by the filler maltodextrin. Maltodextrin contains as much energy as sugar, but doesn’t taste as sweet. Claiming "reduced sugar content" is in this case permitted.


"low in sugar"

A foodstuff low in sugar may contain at most 5 g of sugar per 100 g, or in the case of liquid products, no more than 2.5 g sugar per 100 ml.



For a foodstuff specified as sugar-free, the maximum residual sugar content may not exceed 0.5 g of sugar per 100 g or 100 ml.

Not regulated by law:

"with glucose"

Contrary to popular opinion, glucose is not a particularly healthy sugar. While compared to household sugar it has lower sweetening power, its energy content is the same. This may lead to more glucose being added to a product to achieve the expected sweetness. At the same time this increases the amount of energy being added.


"with fructose"

The sweet taste of fruit it is primarily due to fructose. In food production, fructose and fruit sugar syrups are also used as sweeteners. These ingredients have a higher sweetening power than conventional household sugar und are often cheaper. There are indications that excessive consumption of fructose promotes the formation of fat in the body and contributes to an increase in uric acid concentration and blood lipid levels. Some people do not tolerate larger amounts of fructose very well and become prone to stomach and intestinal problems. Consequently "sweetened with fructose" does not mean that something is sweetened in a healthier fashion or more easily tolerated.


"less sweet"

The information "less sweet" is no more than an indication of taste. To what extent sugar or other sweeteners have in fact been pared down remains unclear. Nor does "less sweet" always mean that a foodstuff has fewer calories. Sugar can have been replaced by maltodextrin – a carbohydrate that supplies as much energy as sugar, but has no or hardly any sweet taste.


Source: www.lebensmittelklarheit.de