Press Release 04.03.2022

EU Food Safety Authority: Even small amounts of sugar can harm health

  • Sugar, fat & salt

foodwatch demands: EU Commission must end food industry's "sweetening insanity"

Even a few grams of sugar a day can pose a risk to human health. That's according to the latest recommendation from the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It is not possible to define a safe intake level for sugar, the expert panel said – neither for added sugar in sodas nor for sugar naturally occurring, such as in juices. The risk of numerous health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, increases with higher sugar consumption, it said. The intake of sugar should therefore be kept as low as possible, according to EFSA. In view of the alarming research results, the independent European consumer organization foodwatch called for effective political measures: Nutri-Score nutritional labeling must be made mandatory throughout Europe, it said, and children must be consistently protected from advertising for sugary products. In addition, the EU Commission must finally present clear rules for health claims on foods. Although the Commission should have presented these so-called nutrient profiles as early as 2009, this has not happened to date – in foodwatch's view, a glaring policy failure.

"The EFSA recommendation could not be clearer: Sugar makes you sick – even in small amounts. The EU Commission must finally put an end to the 'sweetening insanity’ of the food industry. For the Health Claims Regulation, this means: any health advertising for sugary foods must be banned throughout the EU. For food labeling, manufacturers must be prohibited from hiding sugar. The proposal announced by the Commission for the end of 2022 for science-based, EU-wide mandatory nutrition labeling in traffic light colors must take full account of the EFSA recommendation. The EFSA recommendation is a clear call to action to do just that," said Matthias Wolfschmidt, strategy director of foodwatch International. 

EFSA's assessment came at the initiative of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, which requested in 2017 that EFSA reassess the potential health risks to consumers from excessive intake of dietary sugars. Between 2018 and 2021, EFSA then sifted through and evaluated some 30,000 publications on the subject. The scientists' findings on the consumption of sugary drinks are particularly clear: People who consume sugar-sweetened beverages consume more added sugars than people who consume other foods. At the same time, a particularly large number of metabolic diseases are linked to consumption of the sweet beverages, including gestational diabetes and malnutrition.