The Many Names of Sugar

cupcakes

One of the tricky bits about food labelling is that it’s not always easy to determine what a particular ingredient actually is.

Sugar is a case in point. Here’s a little table, sourced from the Canadian Sugar Institute, of the various names, and sources, of basic sugar additives in foods:

Sugars Listed in the Ingredient List Source of Sugar
Sucrose, sugar, liquid sugar, invert sugar, molasses Sugar cane or sugar beets
Glucose/fructose, dextrose, corn syrup solids, dextrin corn
Honey honey
Maple syrup Maple sap
(concentrated) fruit juice Fruits such as pear, apple, or grape for example

If you’re a real food nut, you can dig around through Google search results to find other sweeteners (maltodextrin, for example) that are derived from or related to sugar.

The usual reaction to labelling sugar and sugar-related products in this manner is that food manufacturers are trying to “hide” the fact that their products contain sugar. It’s nothing like that. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, dextrin, and all other sweeteners are chemically different form each other; therefore the manufacturer is bound by labelling law to list exactly what went into the product.

Unfortunately, that puts the onus on the consumer to educate themselves about the actual additive behind the label. But that’s the role of  the true Wellness Rebel – to go beyond the surface and take responsibility to dig for the real truth.

However, there’s a minefield to navigate outside of the list of ingredients; there’s the labelling on the front of the package as well. Terms such as “sugar-free” and “reduced-sugar” have their own meaning, as well.

The Canadian Sugar Institute offers this guide to package labelling claims, and what the requirements are behind those claims:

Sugar – Related Claims Regulations
"sugar-free free of sugar no sugar 0 sugar zero sugar without sugar contains no sugar sugarless" Contains < 0.5 g sugars per reference amount and “free of energy” (< 5 cal per reference amount).
reduced in sugar, reduced sugar, sugar-reduced, less sugar, lower sugar, lower in sugar Compared to a similar reference food, contains > 25% less sugars and > 5 g less sugars/reference amount.
"lower in sugar less sugar lower sugar" Compared to a reference food of the same food group, contains > 25% less sugars and > 5 g less sugars/reference amount.
"no added sugar no sugar added without added sugar" Contains no added sugars, no ingredients containing added sugars or ingredients that contain sugars that substitute for added sugars.
unsweetened Meets requirements for “no added sugar” and contains no sweeteners.

Well, the table certainly tries to be helpful, I’ll give it that. Although some of the wording is a little obtuse: “Contains no…ingredients that that contain sugars that substitute for added sugars”. I’m still not quite sure about that one.

I’ve read through the site, and honestly I find it a little disturbing that the Institute – which has an interest in the marketing and production of sugar – also provides pages for consumers, educators, and health professionals on topics such as weight management, dental health, and healthy eating guidelines.

Is it just me or do I sense a conflict of interest with this approach? Leave your thoughts in the comment area below!

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