Honey can contain almost as much “free sugar” as table sugar, despite many consumers still believing it to be a healthier alternative, health campaigners have warned.
Action on Sugar said that consumers are still being misled through claims on packaging that imply that honey and other types of free sugars are healthier alternatives to table sugar.
Meanwhile, its investigation found that some products which are billed as containing honey actually have more table sugar in them.
The report, which analysed a total of 223 honeys, sugars and syrups widely available in UK supermarkets, found that honey can be up to 86 per cent free sugars – ie any sugars added to food or drink derived from fruit juice, honeys or syrups. It also revealed that maple syrup can be made of 88 per cent free sugars.
Regardless of the argument as to whether honey has any health benefits over table sugar, products such as the Raspberry & Honey Porridge Oat Bars made by Scottish company Stoats contain 22.4g of sugar – with just 0.8 per cent of the content coming from honey.
Dr Kawther Hashem, campaign lead at Action on Sugar, said: “It’s disappointing that companies boast about products containing honey, knowing that honey and syrups are nearly as high in sugars as table sugar.
“The amount added is often really small, while the main sweetening ingredient continues to be high-sugar syrups and table sugar. This is to mislead customers into thinking the products are healthier than they really are. Our advice is to always opt for less sweetness by using less sugar, syrups and honey.”
The report also pointed out that popular so-called healthier syrups and sugar alternatives such as agave syrup and brown or coconut sugar are often promoted as healthier options in independent coffee shops too while many leading cafes promote honey as part of a “healthy” porridge offering, which is still contributing to a person’s free sugars intake.
Katharine Jenner, a registered nutritionist and director of Action on Sugar, added: “Poor nutrition labelling, misleading marketing claims, and mixed messages from well meaning food bloggers and chefs mean customers are confused about what free sugars actually are, which products contain them, and how much they contribute to their total daily sugar intake.
“Too many calories from all types of sugars contributes to increasing risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, liver disease and tooth decay.”