Experts have said fruit juice and smoothies should be included in the new sugar tax after finding that some had twice as much sugar than required to qualify for the levy.
Fruit drinks marketed to children and their parents contain “unacceptably high” levels of sugar, often as much in one small carton or bottle as a child should consume in a day, according to research.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool assessed the sugar content of 203 fruit juice drinks, 100 percent natural juices, and smoothies. Smoothies contained the highest amount of sugar.
They said that the fructose naturally present in fruit juices and smoothies is as likely to cause dental decay as all other sugars, and increased consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to childhood obesity.
And they urged parents to always dilute fruit juice with water, or opt for unsweetened juices.
Kawther Hashem, co-author of the study, published in BMJ Open, said: “It is highly concerning that many parents are still buying fruit juices and juice drinks for their children thinking they are choosing healthy products; children should be given as little juice as possible (maximum of 150ml/day).
“These juices rot children’s teeth and give children a ‘sweet tooth’ that will affect their general health in later life.”
The researcher for Action on Sugar called on manufacturers to stop adding sugar to already sweet juices.
The paper comes in the wake of Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a tax on sugary soft drinks – but fruit juices and smoothies are exempt.
The researchers say tough action is needed as drinks groups marketed to children as well as to parents and often claim about vitamin C or ‘packed full of fruit’.
Prof Simon Capewell of the department of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool said: “There are no restrictions around the words industry can use in their marketing. They can claim or imply quite a lot.”
But Gavin Partington, the British Soft Drinks Association’s director general, disagreed. He said: “100% fruit juice and fruit juice smoothies… contain only naturally occurring sugars from the fruit. At the same time they provide essential vitamins and nutrients which many people in the UK today are sadly lacking.
“Only last week Public Health England confirmed that 150ml of fruit juice or fruit juice smoothies can contribute to the five a day target. Very few people reach their five a day target and given the positive contribution it has to the diet, it is counterintuitive to suggest that 100% pure juice should not contribute to it.”