Hidden in Plain Sight

Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods

We tend to think that added sugar is mainly found in desserts like cookies and cakes, but it’s also found in many savory foods, such as bread and pasta sauce. And some foods promoted as “natural” or “healthy” are laden with added sugars, compounding the confusion. In fact, manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets.1 So, even if you skip dessert, you may still be consuming more added sugar than is recommended.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food producers to list all ingredients in their foods. But added sugar comes in many forms – which is why it’s so hard to find on the ingredients label.2

There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. These include common names, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others.

While product labels list total sugar content, manufacturers are not required to say whether that total includes added sugar, which makes it difficult to know how much of the total comes from added sugar and how much is naturally occurring in ingredients such as fruit or milk. That makes it very difficult to account for how much added sugar we’re consuming.

UCSF: Hidden in Plain Sight