WHO public consultation on draft guideline on sugar intake

02 April 2014

FDI has forwarded its response to a public consultation, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 5 March, on the new WHO draft guideline on the consumption of free sugars. In general, FDI supports the document but has made concrete proposals to reinforce some of the messages.

The guideline’s objective is to provide recommendations to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in adults and children, with a particular focus on the prevention and control of weight gain and dental caries. The WHO document, strongly emphasises the scientific evidences supporting a direct link between sugars and caries.

Below 5%
WHO’s current recommendation—from 2002—is that sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day. The new draft guideline also proposes that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day.

It further suggests that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

Considering the scientific evidence and the health and economic benefits of the suggested measures on the health care system, FDI requested that the 5% reduction should be not a conditional but a strong recommendation.

‘Hidden’ sugars
The suggested limits on intake of sugars in the draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar.

The draft guideline was formulated based on analyses of all published scientific studies on the consumption of sugars and how that relates to excess weight gain and tooth decay in adults and children.

Expert peer review
The consultation took place from 5 to 31 March, with an expert peer-review process carried out over the same period. Once all comments have been reviewed, the draft guidelines will be revised if necessary and cleared by WHO’s Guidelines Review Committee before being finalized.

The new recommendations can then be used by programme managers and policy planners to assess current intake of free sugars relative to a benchmark and develop measures to decrease intake of free sugars, where necessary, through public health interventions.

Read the transcript from guideline press conference.

Share it