When deciding which baked good to buy when on-the-go, people may think a blueberry muffin is the healthier option - because, you know, fruit - but it seems not all muffins are created equal.
New analysis by Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) has revealed a huge variation in sugar content, portion size and lack of nutritional labelling on blueberry muffins sold at the UK’s busiest train stations and supermarkets. As a result the groups are urging manufacturers to reduce the white stuff, in line with the Government’s plans to cut sugar in common products by 20% by 2020.
On average, muffins bought on-the-go at railway station food outlets had 19% more sugar per portion and were 32% bigger than those bought in supermarkets.While, 61% (17 out of 28) of all the muffins included in the survey contained six teaspoons of sugar or more.
The report also notes a lack of nutritional information at a range of popular outlets in train stations and in supermarket bakeries, which means consumers will not know exactly what they are eating.
There is a rather substantial variation in sugar content across a range of muffins: Costa Blueberry Muffin was the worst culprit, containing 40.3g of sugar, which is the equivalent to 10 teaspoons; McDonalds Blueberry Muffin came second with 32g or 8 teaspoons; and Pret A Manger Double Berry Muffin 30.5g or 8 teaspoons.
To put that into perspective, according to the NHS, adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to seven sugar cubes), while children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (six sugar cubes).
“We may think grabbing a blueberry muffin is a reasonably healthy option for a snack on the go compared to other cakes or a chocolate bar – yet the figures suggest otherwise,” Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance Lead, said. “Some of the muffins on sale have twice as much sugar than others. This shows that it is possible for industry to significantly reduce sugar even in their most sugary products to help us all make healthier choices. Industry must step up to the plate and take responsibility for making the food they produce healthier.”
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Registered Nutritionist Kawther Hashem from Action on Sugar, said: “During the Easter holidays, if families are travelling through these busy stations and were to buy blueberry muffins from one of the outlets available, those kids would likely be consuming almost their entire recommended limit of sugar that day, if not more. And worryingly, it’s very difficult to know exactly what’s in these products as there is often no clear nutrition information at the point of sale.”
Campaigners also raised concerns about supermarket products, which they found lacked nutrition information per portion – and some, particularly in-store bakery products, did not contain traffic light nutrition labelling.
Kawther continued: “This analysis shows just how difficult it can be for consumers to make informed choices when it comes to buying food on the go. It is time all out of home outlets are made to be transparent about the nutrition content of their products by making nutrition labelling available to consumers at the point of sale.”