The Food Magazine - Click to return to the home page

Soft drinks or liquid candy?

29th January 2004

With increasing attention being paid to the role of soft drinks in the obesity epidemic, especially among children, a Food Magazine survey has revealed that a single drink of Ribena or Lucozade could give you as much sugar as several packets of sweets. Either drink would exceed a child's recommended maximum sugar intake for the whole day - by 30% in the case of Ribena.

RibenaA whopping 70g of sugar in this 500ml bottle of Ribena is equal to the sugar in more than three and a half packets of Chewits, or seven lollipops. That's more than a child's recommended maximum sugar intake for a whole day.

With bottled water costing as much or more than a soft drink, and with the demise of the freely-available drinking fountain in parks and school playgrounds, children inevitably turn to the colourful, flavour-boosted, fruity-looking products as a widely-available quencher of thirst.

But soft drinks do more than quench thirst. They add hugely to a child's daily sugar intake.

As this quick survey shows, typical drinks provide the equivalent to several lollipops or a pack or two of sweets, in every portion sold.

cokeCoca-Cola: A 330ml bottle contains 35g sugar, equivalent to one-and-a-quarter packs of Rowntrees Fruit Gums

Enough is enough...

The World Health Organization and the UK Government recommend no more than an average of 10-11% of daily calories from non-milk extrinsic (e.g. not in the cells of fruit) sugars in adult diets.

No specific guidance is published for children, but there is little evidence that they have greater requirements for sugar. In terms of grams a day for a typical child this equates to the figures in the table below. Remember, these are the top amounts consistent with health - lower levels are preferable.

Sugar limits per day
age 5
age 10
age 15


VimtoVimto: A 250ml carton contains 22g sugar and the artificial sweetener saccharine. The sugar content is equivalent to a whole pack of Fruit Gums.    
FantaFanta Orange: This 330ml can contains 34g sugar as well as two artificial sweeteners, aspartame and saccharine. The sugar is equivalent to one-and-three-quarters packs of Chewits
LucozadeThis 380ml bottle of Lucozade Energy packs a real punch with 64g of sugar, equivalent to two packs of Bassetts Jelly Babies