In currywurst and coleslaw: How to spot hidden sugar traps

“Without sugar” is considered healthy. But “without sugar” doesn’t taste good. So the food industry brings sweetness into its products in many forms. Nobody has to remember the complicated names to identify hidden sugars. “Öko-Test” reveals how it is easier.

Ever since sugar fell into disrepute as a health hazard, the food industry has had a problem. Because the nutrient is a perfect flavor carrier. Even hearty products like pizza or herring salad don’t taste good without sugar. Manufacturers of finished products have come up with a few tricks to lure consumers with the “little sugar” selling point.

The magazine “Öko-Test” looked at the tricks that the food industry uses to hide sugar. In addition, a laboratory tested 34 foods for their sugar content – with surprising results. Because who would think that

  • Herring salad (Lysell Schwedenhappen) offers more sugar than salt ,
  • Currywurst contains the equivalent of eight sugar cubes ,
  • Pizza (Dr. Oetker Tradizionale Speciale) contains seven different sweetening ingredients ,
  • in coleslaw Zucker (Nadler) to second place in the list of ingredients creates
  • Ready coffee ( Rewe Best Choice Cappuccino with no added sugar ) brings a total of 30 sugar cubes ,
  • Ketchup (good & cheap curry spice ketchup) with the equivalent of 110 pieces of sugar per bottle consists of 40 percent sugar ,
  • Almost a third of a milk slice consists of sweetening ingredients, but that is “only” two pieces of sugar .

Many names for the desired taste “sweet”

As syrup, sweet whey, malt, honey, fructose, dextrose or agave syrup, the sweetening substances are also used in the tested spreads, breakfast cereals, smoothies, yoghurts, sauces and savory salads and add up to generous amounts of sugar.

To find the hidden sugars, you need to know the tricks the food industry uses to disguise the sweet stuff in their products:

Trick number 1: Instead of simply adding “sugar”, manufacturers often add glucose-fructose syrup, Detrose and sweet whey powder. In the list of ingredients, the sweeteners do not end up at the top, but in places 3, 5 and 9. 

Trick number 2: “Natural sweetness”, “fruit sweetness” – that sounds healthy, but it is also nothing more than a mixture of fructose and glucose and is therefore qualitatively equivalent to ordinary table sugar.

Trick number 3 : Everyone knows the terms sugar or syrup. But maltodextrin, oligofructose or dextrose? Anyone who wants to recognize sugar in any form has to learn many chemical terms.

Trick number 4 : “Less sweet” – this statement on a food does not necessarily mean that sugar has been saved, but that the product contains 30 percent less sweetener than a comparable food.

Trick number 5 : The smaller a manufacturer measures the portion quantity, the lower the proportion of the food in the total daily amount of sugar. So the content of sugar, but also fat, salt and calories are subtracted.

And how does the consumer find their way through this thicket of tricks? The experts from “Öko-Test” give two simple tips :

  1. On the list of ingredients, look out for terms that end with “-ose”. All of this is cute.
  2. To see the total sugar content, it is helpful to take a look at the nutritional value table.

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