Help
BBC OnePanorama

MORE PROGRAMMES

Page last updated at 18:12 GMT, Saturday, 9 October 2004 19:12 UK

Your comments

The views expressed on these pages are not necessarily the views of the BBC. The e-mails published will be reflective of the balance of opinion received.


I hope this will lead to clear guidance from our own food standards agency
Sandra, Norwich
A very enlightening programme. I'm disturbed that bodies like the FAO are so susceptible to corporate interests. You gave a graphic illustration of what happens to officials who speak out. I hope this will lead to clear guidance from our own food standards agency, with the missing upper limit for calories from sugar. Parents want and need clear health guidance from an impartial source, not food industry whitewash.
Sandra, Norwich

Cheryl asked about an RDA for sugar - there is not such a thing. The US FDA and the UK's COMAH both failed to find a specific reason to specify a limit on sugar intake. Ready to eat apricots are 36.5% sugar, and dried banana chips 22% - are these junk foods?
Peter Fairline, Fakenham, Norfolk

Saw your programme about sugar in our food. As a simple consumer, with no ties to the sugar industry, your programme was biased. You wheeled on so-called "experts" who simply criticised the sugar producers. There was simply no word about consumers who have the choice of what they can buy. It is no good parading a couple of people who can't be bothered to read the label because their kid is demanding some sugary product from the supermarket shelf.

Those people have just passed several rows of fresh produce which they have chosen to ignore in favour of the sugar counter. Your programme tried to suggest that we consumers have no choice. Complete rubbish. Very poor journalism and you should be ashamed at the very poor quality of your programme which did not allow a different point of view; namely, take responsibility for yourself and family in what you choose to eat or not.
Sandy Pratt, Bromley

This was an excellent programme highlighting the ease in which global food organisations and industries would happily push fat and sugar down our throats while they get fat with the profit. There is no need to eat any refined sugar at all since sugar is broken down from complex carbohydrates like fruit, potatoes and wholemeal bread which all taste infinitely better anyway. Unfortunately, until people stop eating rubbish the industries will keep making it.
Irene, Glasgow, UK

The tobacco companies have now paid out millions in court settlements in the US. Watch out sugar industry
Alan Thomas, Dagenham
A brilliant programme maintaining the high standards of reporting that we have come to expect from Panorama. The abuse of power and public trust uncovered by the programme bring to mind the past activities of the tobacco companies who have now paid out millions in court settlements in the US. Watch out sugar industry.
Alan Thomas, Dagenham, Essex

This was a programme that I wished would answer questions for me, I teach child-care students mathematics and use nutrition and the content of sugar and salt in breakfast cereals as an assignment. There are recommended daily allowances (RDA) for salt consumption published by the UK Food Commission, none for sugar. Although I have a personal belief that sugar contributes to obesity, your programme presented no scientific evidence to support this.
Clive Roberts, Bury, Lancashire

Well done for exposing the link between the supposed independent scientific report and the sugar industry, as well as the huge problem of food labelling which is a matter which needs to be sorted out. The public is treated as an uneducated child in terms of proper info on healthy dietary content.
Caroline Rimmer, Dunbar, Scotland

The answer for many parents is vote with your purse and stop buying convenience products
Jacqueline Hardy, Amersham
The people who can really make a difference in this matter are mainly parents at the supermarkets, who choose the food they will feed their children with. The answer to concerns about sugar content etc for many parents is vote with your purse, and stop buying convenience products. A boycott on children's cereals, junk food desserts in exchange for a healthy diet of fresh fruit and veg soon stop these vast money making organisations in their tracks. Or am I being naive in thinking the British public want to improve their eating habits. We have got a choice.
Jacqueline Hardy, Amersham

I was interested to note when I was in Nagasaki that their Coca Cola contains far less sugar than the British version, and was, as a result, very refreshing. I have wondered since about who has control over the sugar content of a product. I expect that the manufacturers realise that the Japanese dislike sugar. Does this mean that our government could do us the same favour?
Catherine Downie, Aberdeen, Scotland

The only surprise is that anybody should be surprised at the behaviour of the sugar industry. This has been extensively reported in 'Private Eye' since the 1970s at least. Funny how some stories take so long to make it into the mainstream. That said, congratulations on the programme: let's see if it stays on the public agenda.
Stan Collins, Staveley, Cumbria, UK

All foods should have a visible breakdown of contents - many already do. The product shown in the programme had a list of contents, so why were the mothers so surprised when told what their children were eating? I can only conclude they are not only gullible by accepting the packaging of the product, but too lazy to read the ingredients, and work it out for themselves. Take some responsibility for the choices you make when you have the information available.
Anne, Newport, UK

Panorama was dead right tonight. Last week I bought a two-pound bag of sugar and it had nigh-on a KILO of sugar in it. If I were a five-year-old child that would be more than TWENTY times my RDA of sugar. I haven't slept a wink since buying it, having eaten it all in one go, and I'm wondering how long it will be before the government spends taxpayers' money interfering in everyone else's life to protect me from my own relentless stupidity. If this farce is allowed to continue it will be worse than when all those kids were eating Roald Dahl books (no doubt shamelessly marketed at them) thinking there was actual dahl in them.
Iain Robinson, Nottingham, UK

Typical Journalistic Scam Story. Invent some news, hype it up, then pretend to be outraged, just to get yourselves an emotive headline. Food is all clearly labelled, with contents. Any parent that does not understand the implications of an unbalanced diet, is clearly dim. It is not the function of a State or Industry, to compensate for unfit parents. Whatever happened to freedom of choice ? The real villains in the modern World are media scaremongers.
Graham Goodyer, Paignton

Your programme was the first mention I had ever heard of an R.D.A. for sugar. I would like to see everything from bread through cornflakes, pasta sauces etc show the sugar content as % R.D.A as well as in grams, so we stand a chance of knowing what we're doing. I would also like to see a minimum font size imposed on such details, and if one already exists, it's too small!
Cheryl White, Seaford UK

There is a tendency in this country to shirk responsibility for one's own actions
M Bibby, London
I watched your programme about sugar with interest, and was surprised at the lack of responsibility parents seem to take. Whilst I totally agree that the food industry should be made to redress the situation regarding sugar in manufactured food and the way it targets children through advertising, the fact remains that nobody forces the public to buy such nutritionally sub standard foods for themselves or their children.

As a child, I was never allowed to have sugary foods and drinks and as a consequence, at the age of 30, have never had a problem with my weight or health, and have no fillings. I didn't know any better and my mother never bowed to pressure to purchase unhealthy food.

Babies are not born knowing what sugar tastes like, and will only know if their parents feed it to them and get them addicted at the earliest opportunity. There is a tendency in this country to shirk responsibility for one's own actions, and to place blame firmly elsewhere and this now extends to the type of food choices we make for ourselves and our children. If parents don't buy 'bad foods' and it isn't in the home, then children can't eat it - simple as that.
M Bibby, London, UK

The integrity of the scientists involved is being eroded by the devious tactics employed by these industries and the consistent lack of funding
David Burton, Chelmsford
The real issue here is the power the sugar industry exerts on scientists, and is the same as the problem with the drug companies. Both of these industries (and I am sure there are others) are capable of influencing what should be impartial scientific reports. The difficulty is that the integrity of the scientists involved is being eroded by the devious tactics employed by these industries and the consistent lack of funding given to such scientists in the course of their work. We must look seriously at forming neutral international organisations to review both the funding and integrity of scientific reports as a whole.
David Burton, Chelmsford, Essex

What a disappointing programme - oversensationalised and one-sided. The issue of obesity is not solely about sugar - and yet sugar has been singled out as the major contributor. Of course the skewing of scientific findings is scandalous, but it highlights how so called experts are both flattered and offered enough money and influence to ignore the questions they need to be asking before getting involved in such studies. In the same way we all know that marketing is there to influence our choices - if our kids (and I have three) keep pestering it is up to us as parents to act responsibly, not for industry to molly coddle us all.

High sugar food is produced because there is a demand for it - the demand originates with consumers like you and me. We need to change our habits - then industry will change to fill the demand...it will be where the profits lie. This was a non-event. What on earth the Fit and Fruity product contributed to this debate I still fail to see - the supermarkets are full of such products - positioning messages to slant our thinking is the way of the world - we need to grow up, read the labels and take responsibility for the choices we make. Parents need to be parents - not constantly appease their kids just in case they get upset! Panorama, you're slipping.
Andrew McCamley, Huntingdon, UK

Why can't we just tax sugar as an additive? Price it out of foodstuffs. What would prevent our government or the EU for that matter doing so?
William, Welwyn, Herts

In searching for low fat foods my experience is that low fat usually translates as high sugar and vice versa, low sugar results in high fat content. Neither of these aspects has been acknowledged in 'obesity' programmes.
Jean Lewis, Stockport, England

Nice report. However, while I would have loved the sugar industry to use some Gandhi-esque philosophy and refrain from using tactics that support their industry sales, this is not likely to happen in reality. Everyone uses lobbying and the way to fight it is to wisely spend your pennies. We have to educate ourselves and our children about what is good food and what is not. The labels are out there and we cannot expect some third party (here the sugar lobby) to tell us with what is right or not. Obviously, they will try to support their case. Read the label and use common sense. Take responsibility for what you, I we, eat. Something with 25g of sugar in a 100g pot of yogurt cannot be healthy. And once we stop buying these products, then the supply will stop. Remember in a free market, demands create supply.
James Harley, London

Trading standards officers would have removed your "Fit and Fruity" product off the shelves the moment they saw it
Michael, London
What a missed opportunity in this error-filled hatchet job. I left the food industry 20 years ago, but still retain some consumer interest in food issues (once a label-obsessive, always a label obsessive!) and know that trading standards officers would have removed your "Fit and Fruity" product off the shelves the moment they saw it. It was simply wrong for you to state that the label might be "deceptive, maybe, but perfectly legal": there is nothing legal about such an obviously deceptive name, certainly in respect of "FIT" and probably in respect of "FRUITY".

It was also not a mousse (mousses have air whipped in and are not runny like your product), so would have been withdrawn for that reason also. This was a very misleading representation of the UK's food labelling requirements. You would never have got such a product on the shelves of any supermarket in normal circumstances. You had a story about the sugar industry contributing to carbohydrate research, but did not tell told us what proportion of the total costs that was. You spoiled a good story with your ridiculously flawed "Fit and Fruity" product.
Michael, London, UK

I would like to congratulate Panorama on a highly informative programme concerning the trouble with sugar. I myself have struggled with obesity for some time now and it was a relief to watch such an eye opener. I actually felt physically sick at the thought of sugar. Although I have read some obscure articles concerning the influence of the sugar industry, I never really understood how far they go to make their money. Thank you for opening my eyes.
Kiera, Wales

I have just caught the end of the Panorama programme and was shocked by its revelations. It should state clearly on packaging how much sugar is in a product by teaspoon comparisons. After all, there can be no confusion then.
Lisa Carlile, Stockport, England

Thought it was really well structured and made a great case. Entertaining and life-changing.
Sara, UK

Why do our elected politicians consistently abrogate their responsibilities and permit the international consortia to dictate government policies. When is Europe really going to get its act together and take these uncontrolled international companies to task?
Dick Daniel, Brig O' Weir, Scotland

Loved the report. Most helpful. One complaint; why in 2004 do you choose mums only to test this product. It's lazy. It alienates caring and responsible dads who are often the main child-carers. Great programme and Betsan Powys is superb.
Dyfan Jones, Aberdare, Wales

Whilst appreciating the standpoint of the Panorama programme, I cannot help but feel that yet more government regulation would be counter productive. I agree that the industry should be pushed to provide more and clearer information, and believe that the majority of adults today, given this data, are perfectly capable of making the correct decisions for themselves. Let's not have more and more issues expanding the 'granny state'.
Alan Cudmore, Brentford, England

I would like all products to clearly label the number of TEASPOONS of sugar and fat that they contain. This would be clear, understandable and relevant! The amount as a percentage or grammes does not have any relevance to an ordinary person. I am very concerned as a mother about the health of my family.
Dawn Jones, Ammanford, Wales

Aside from the scandal of vested interests in the sugar studies - the Fit and Fruity experiment was a well researched and brilliantly executed example of the gaping holes in food labelling legislation. It was startling how the food standards spokesperson suggested that children need a certain proportion of fats and sugars in their diet. He seemed to be completely ignorant of the hydrogenated component of the desert and ignored - consistently - the name of the product and its misleading title. We know how powerful consumer opinion is in this country - taking on the GM industry with both hands and winning. There is no reason why the same cannot be done to reduce the sugar content in our overly-processed food. Panorama has started a life-saving ball rolling...let's keep the momentum going.
Stuart McInnes, Edinburgh, UK

I was surprised that 'fit and fruity' was legal. Have worked in food labelling/packaging for 11 years, my impression is that the label misleads consumers, unless the added nutritional supplements plus the not artificially sweetened justify fit? We regularly struggled with ways of presenting indifferent products in the best possible light. It is all part of the 'communications game'.
Chris McConnon, London, England

First, I fully support the need to reduce obesity in the UK. Having watched the first 10 minutes of the Panorama programme of 10th October however, I feel I must object to the way interviews are so obviously edited. You, as journalists, may feel including only 'the essence' of an interview is desirable to highlight an argument - I am left feeling you have removed what may be vital content.

Please let me, the viewer, decide whether an expert's comments are valid or irrelevant even if it reduces the overall impact of the argument you (the journalist - not the expert) present. If you do not do this, the level of Panorama is reduced to that of the 'instant' tabloids and I for one would not take the programme contents seriously - or are you just after influence by numbers? I would like to see Panorama stay the mainstay of serious television 'journalism' - please don't fail me!
Bob Mahon, Allendale, Northumberland

I am disgusted with the current trend in sensationalistic journalism
Kevin Smith, Trowbridge
This is the most biased, poor reporting I have ever seen on the BBC. First of all, for the people who I pay my licence to, to create what "you say" is unhealthy, and sell this product to the general public is a disgrace. Secondly, the label shown stated that the product had so many grammes of Carbohydrate, but did not break it down to the sugar and non sugar constituents, was misleading. Thirdly, the standard of totally biased reporting from the presenter was, at best, condescending, and at worst factually incorrect. Please create Panorama programmes like the BBC used to present 10 years ago, which were above reproach. I am disgusted with the current trend in sensationalistic journalism, which is not thought out, and obviously has no editorial control.
Kevin Smith, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Thank you for giving the scientists the opportunity to air their views. Thank you for reinforcing the Dalai Lama this evening in his comment that the BBC was trustworthy. We all know that a little of everything does you good; but there will always be those who choose to ignore intelligent and reasoned comment. Thank you for the programme and for your integrity. Keep up the good work.
Catherine, Warks

To argue the point that it is the consumer's choice is a false one, when labelling is unclear and addiction is in place
Paul Hegarty, Worthing
Tonight's programme did not shed any great surprises. It is and always will be about profit. The government must and should take action against the big corporations, otherwise our health and our children's health will be at risk. To argue the point that it is the consumer's choice is a false one, when labelling is unclear and addiction is in place. Sugar can be added if the consumer wishes, but for those of use want a reduced sugar (and salt for that matter) then it should undoubtedly be in place.
Paul Hegarty, Worthing, West Sussex

Congratulations on standing up for the world's health. As a diabetic and therefore a semi-expert on the effects of sugary diets, low carbohydrate diets, glycaemic indexes and so on, I see the findings of your programme as explaining many of the myths surrounding the terrible dietary advice still being given by most dieticians and doctors.
Jon Taylor, Streatham, London, UK

The mother of the little fat girl was overweight herself. Surely a major contribution to the state of the child herself. If the mother achieved a sensible weight, it would inevitably encourage her to get her daughter slimmed down.
John Close, UK

Your programme and marketing tests with sugar were absolutely excellent. If enough people watched it, it will have a good effect.
James Baring, Milton Keynes, UK

Why can't the rules be that the content is expressed in the same way on each product - clearly stating the amounts in useful (easy for the consumer) colour coded graphs. If it was always in the same presentation, then the public would learn what was better - and what was not. But with vegetables even having added sugar, we may be up against it.
John, Cheshire

A very good programme informing parents to read the label, and not to listen to their kids. If the parents have a lack of education about what food groups to eat, then what chance do their children have of making informed choices? Why do we look to advertising agencies, food companies, retailers to take responsibility when it all stems from a good education and physical activity. Maybe the programme should have contained more description on measurements and what these weight measures mean in daily consumption.
Shahbaz, Huddersfield, England

Just watched the end of the programme. I'm very glad I live in a country where it is still possible for the truth to be told. The US media needs to take some lessons from the BBC before they find themselves in an Orwellian nightmare of a 'free' society. That Panorama would go as far as to actually produce a sugary desert to illustrate its point is, in my view, superb. Once again the interests of big business distorts and pollutes the pursuit of truth for its own ends. When will the drive for bigger profit margins cease to be the highest thing a human being can achieve?
Rory Sinclair, Glenrothes, Scotland

How about a 'bar' or a pie-chart (very apt) on all packaging, which indicates what percentage of RDA (for kids and adults) is sugar content. People would understand and look out for such a graphic, even if the graphic was tiny, rather than the tiny print.
Shabaz, Slough

I would like to thank the programme for bringing to our attention the sugar content in foods I believed to be healthy for my child. The worst thing is that some of these yoghurts can be given to babies from four months old. I will certainly be buying different products and examining the contents of my fridge.
Mrs Claire Newman, England

The FSA have got to make labelling easier and enforce better quality food, reducing and eventually eliminating all the extra additives which have no health benefits
Ian, Newcastle

Twenty years ago, with our first baby on the way, my wife suggested that we try to improve our already fairly healthy eating habits by cutting out as much sugar and salt as possible. Since then neither we, nor our two children have required any dental treatment. We are all healthy and have never been overweight. We now find that foods containing refined sugar taste foul and levels of salt are way above what we consider palatable. It's not surprising that levels of obesity are rising when virtually every product on supermarket shelves inappropriately includes sugar.
Carl, Bath, UK

The manufacture and consumption of sugar in the UK has been at a constant rate for at least 25 years. Meanwhile the "obesity epidemic" has grown exponentially. How can sugar be responsible for obesity given these facts? I don't believe there is a scientific case to differentiate one form of carbohydrate from another. Maybe people need to get off their bums instead.
Phil Thompson, Peterborough, UK



SEE ALSO
The trouble with sugar
04 Oct 04 |  Panorama
Panorama's 'healthy' snack
10 Oct 04 |  Panorama
UN probes sugar industry claims
08 Oct 04 |  Health
10 facts about sugar
10 Oct 04 |  Panorama


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific