Sugar: Plea for better labelling

Pizza label generic Some supermarkets adopt the traffic light system while others use GDA

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I have been trying to give up sugar for Lent and this is the last of my reports.

Lent is nearly over and I have an admission: I did not manage to cut out sugar.

I have concluded it is almost impossible. I have not touched a sweet or a cake but I cannot be sure what I have eaten in restaurants and at friends' houses, and the chances are there has been sugar in some of it.

Fortunately for me it does not matter but for some people it matters very much.

More than 200,000 people in Scotland have diabetes and they have to control their energy intake very carefully.

Gavin Alexander, 14, has to manage his diabetes extremely closely because he is a triathlete.

When he was diagnosed at the age of 10, he immediately had to start monitoring the amount of sugar and fat in his diet.

"I was pretty surprised by the amount of sugar in things," he said.

"A can of coke has about nine teaspoons of sugar and baked beans have about six teaspoons of sugar just in that tiny can."

As a competitive athlete, Gavin cannot afford to get it wrong.

"If I get it wrong and my blood sugar has been high during the day, it does affect my training at night. I can't really train properly."

Gavin's family say they have had the same problems as me trying to work out what is in food.

Food industry

They have to guess when they are eating out, but the labels on food packaging are particularly confusing.

Diabetes UK have long campaigned for clearer labelling.

The national director of the charity's Scottish branch is Jane-Claire Judson.

She said: "If food retailers adopted a system like the traffic light system and made that consistent across their packaging, that would help everyone, whether they've got diabetes or not.

food label generic Guideline Daily Amount labels is an arithmetically-based system

"Each supermarket will use a different type of label. You might see the 'traffic light' system - that's quite an easy one to follow - but then some packages will have the GDA (Guideline Daily Amount), which is arithmetically based.

"If you find it difficult to do arithmetic in your head, in the supermarket it's going to be really hard to follow what you're putting into your shopping trolley."

After today I will not have to worry because my self-imposed sugar-free diet comes to an end.

When I look back at my food diary before I started this experiment it is quite shocking - out of 12 things I ate in a typical day, 10 of them contained sugar.

I have definitely had a healthier diet since. But I cannot help concluding that life is a bit more fun with sugar in it.

I shall definitely be cracking open the Easter Eggs on Sunday. I just wish the food industry would make it easier for me to decide for myself how I consume my sugar.

I would rather have mine in the form of cupcakes and chocolate thanks, not in my mayonnaise, soup and baked beans.

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