The average biscuit contains 30g of sugar per 100g, the study found, while 97 per cent of all biscuits and cakes fell into the “red” category for sugar content. The recommended sugar intake in a single day for an adult is 30g.
However, academics found that some companies had already reformulated their recipes to reduce sugar and said that more firms should follow suit.
According to the paper, the average sugar content in cakes was 36.6g/100g, with a large variation in sugar content between different categories of cakes. On average, Battenberg contained the highest amounts of sugar at 56.4g per 100g, followed by Genoa and red velvet cakes, while blueberry muffins contained the lowest amount of sugar.
Kawther Hashem, co-author of the study and a nutritionist for Action on Sugar at Queen Mary University of London, said: “This research clearly shows the levels of sugar and calories in products can be reduced yet not all manufacturers are complying.
“If some manufacturers can produce chocolate cake bars with 22 per cent fewer calories per 100 g, so can others.”
Graham MacGregor, co-author of the study and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “Large amounts of cake and biscuit are consumed in the UK so a reduction in the sugar and calorie content could play an important role in helping prevent obesity and tooth decay. The majority of the food and drink industry in the UK have asked the government for a more robust and mandatory programme of reformulation. It is a tragedy for our children that this has not been done.”
The study found that among the manufacturers with five or more products, the Fox’s product range contained the highest average sugar content at 35.8 g/100 g, while the Dr Schar product range contained the highest average energy content at 512 kcal per 100g.
In 2016, the government’s sugar-reduction programme was launched, with food and drink companies asked to reduce sugar in their products by 20 per cent by 2020. Some companies have made substantial reductions, including Asda which saw a 22.9 per cent decrease and Waitrose with a 27 per cent decrease.