Thanks to Action on Sugar there have been a lot of news stories recently about just how sugary juice is. An ITV report confirms that ‘Over a quarter of fruit juices are more sugary than Coca-Cola’. Well that says it all really. This is a real concern considering the rise in child obesity. At the heart of the matter is one question – what is the most important thing for the government – children’s health or the interests of large food companies? Of course the major manufacturers are shouting about vitamins, and will be lobbying hard behind the scenes to keep juice as one of the ‘5 A Day’. But this is just like the manufacturers of children’s breakfast cereals. It’s a formula for profit – low quality ingredients, loads of sugar, throw in some vitamins and demand to be called healthy. The ‘5 A Day’ campaign should be just that – five portions of fruit and vegetable. Sugary drinks shouldn’t count. The amount of propaganda to support juice as healthy is astonishing. We’ve had many a conversation in our house because Molly has been told at school that juice is ‘healthy’.
We discovered just how sugary juice was when Molly was diagnosed with Reflux. Her diet became a low fat and low sugar one as both set off reflux and we had to get her vomiting and stomach pain under control. The obvious things were easy – well…easy to identify…sweets, cakes and biscuits. To our horror we realised just how sugary juice was. Over time we’ve discovered that Molly can tolerate cakes and biscuits but that the concentrated level of sugar is juices is just too high for her system. Astonishingly I can let her eat cake, but not have a glass of juice. Getting well meaning friends to understand that they couldn't give Molly juice was a nightmare - so entrenched is the idea that its healthy.
What does the current furore tell us about juices’, about how much sugar is in them, and about how the ‘5 A Day’ campaign works. In my view the ‘5 A Day’ campaign has created a monster. Juices may contain the vitamins, but they lack the fibre. It’s the combination of fibre and vitamins that is so healthy. Also it’s clearly a bit of a cheat…we need kids to be eating identifiable fruit and vegetables to be healthy. To understand what a balanced diet is; not to always reach for the short cut. Dr Alison Tedstone, of Public Health England is quoted on the BBC website as saying ‘we recommend that you try to limit your fruit juice to 150ml a day, including that from smoothies and only consume these and other sugary drinks with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay’. It rather sounds like ‘back to the future’, when I was a child the only juice we had was a glass at breakfast. It all went wrong when some smart marketing people realised that the government campaign would help them sell more of their product.
The sooner the government stops pandering to big business the better; it’s time our health came first. Banning juices from being one of the ‘5 A Day’ would be a great start.
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