● Jodi Bernstein, “Examination of the sugars contents of Canadian prepackaged foods and the role that nutrition labelling can play in helping Canadians identify foods consistent with World Health Organization Guidelines”. University of Toronto (2019) 170 pp.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends free sugars intakes be limited to a maximum of 10% of energy intake. This thesis aims to characterize sugars in the Canadian prepackaged food and beverage supply and investigate whether the sugars information available on the food label (% Daily Value (%DV) and nutrient content claims) support the WHO free sugars intake guidelines. Three studies were conducted using the University of Toronto’s Food Label Information Program (FLIP) 2013 database that contains nutrient composition and labelling information for a large representative sample of prepackaged foods and beverages (n=15,342). In the first study, a novel method for calculating the free sugars contents was developed and applied to products in FLIP 2013. Free sugars were present in 65% of foods and beverages and contributed on average, 20% of calories and 64% of products’ total sugars content. In the second study, a free sugars DV of 50g, which aligns with WHO guidelines, was compared with a total sugars DV of 100g. A free sugars DV more consistently identified products with ≥10% of calories from free sugars (82% vs. 55%) and with suboptimal nutritional composition as defined by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand nutrient profiling scoring criterion (70% vs. 45%), than a total sugars DV. In the third study, products with sugar-related nutrient content claims had more favourable nutrient profiles than those without these claims, but 48% had ≥10% of calories from free sugars. Findings suggest the need for nutrition labelling and the food supply to more reliably support identification and consumption of products consistent with WHO free sugars intake guidelines. Together these results represent significant advancements in the field of sugars research and the calculation and addition of free sugars levels to FLIP can inform an array of future studies and policy actions related to free sugars.