Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The Action on Sugar/Alcohol Health Alliance mash up

Two of Britain's most hysterical, illiberal and puritanical pressure groups have got together to mark Sugar Awareness Week. Action on Sugar, who invented this annual non-event, have done their usual thing of measuring the amount of sugar in various products and pretending to be shocked by the number of 'teaspoons' therein.

It's an old routine and even the press have shown signs of getting bored of it lately, so they have drafted in Alcohol Health Alliance to express additional outrage. It's like when Tim Burton directed Batman Returns and decided that two baddies would work better than one. Think of Action on Sugar as Catwoman and Ian Gilmore as the Penguin.

Naturally, this two-headed monster has found much to be appalled by. It turns out that if you mix spirits with a sugary drink, you will end up with a sugary alcoholic drink. To maximise their outrage about this, AoS/AHA have split the beverages into different categories. Under 'spirit/liquer and mixer (excluding gin)', for example, we are told:

The worst offenders in this category have in excess of 30g sugar (8 teaspoons) in a serving – more sugar than nine custard cream biscuits!

That's an Archers and lemonade, FYI.

Under 'traditional premixed cocktails', we are solemnly informed that...

Many drinks in this category were exceedingly high in sugar. Notwithstanding its larger pack size (500ml), TGI Friday’s Passion Fruit Martini has over 12 teaspoons of sugar (49.1g) – the same as drinking nearly two cans of Red Bull!

Gosh, that would be like having TWO vodka and Red Bulls! And since Red Bull comes in a 250ml can, I guess that makes sense.

There is also the usual 'reformulation is easy' shtick, but it only serves to remind you that quality requires natural sugar...

The findings also clearly demonstrate that lower sugar products can be produced easily. For example, Asda Vodka, Lime & Lemonade has 12g sugar (3tsp) in a 250ml can, whilst Classic Combinations Vodka Lime and Lemonade has over a teaspoon of sugar extra at 16.2g sugar per 250ml can.

This takes me back to when Action on Sugar slagged off Waitrose's Duchy Organic ice cream for having 'excessive' sugar and held up Asda Smart Price ice cream as the model to be followed. Which of those do you think tastes better?

This is the best vodka, lime and lemonade, as far as Action on Sugar are concerned. It's £1 a can.

And this, on the far right, is the worst...

I can't tell you how much the latter costs because no online supermarkets seem to sell it, but it's made by the Manchester Drinks Co. so I'm guessing it costs well over £1. I also suspect it tastes better than the Asda one.

Incidentally, what does the Alcohol Health Alliance think about their new pals encouraging people to drink the cheapest drinks?

Action on Sugar's perennially shocked Katharine Jenner seems to be in a competition with her boss, Graham MacGregor, to see who can express the most fury about the smallest things. She kicks things off the pearl-clutching by saying:

"If consumers knew how much sugar was really in these drinks, would they still happily choose to drink their way to tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes?”

Not a bad bit of hyperbole there, but MacGregor ups the ante with...

It is a national scandal that because these drinks contain alcohol, they are not subject to the sugar tax or any form of coherent nutrition labelling."

A national scandal?! Action on Perspective, more like.

But, for my money, Dr Saul Konviser of the Dental Wellness Trust trumps them both with this zinger...

"It’s truly shocking that these popular ‘ready to drink’ pre-mixed spirits are packed with excessive sugar and hidden calories and it’s no wonder the UK has a tooth decay crisis on its hands."

There has never been less tooth decay, but never mind. He carries (caries?) on with some human rights banter...

"Good oral health is a basic human right yet for some reason, drink manufacturers are being allowed to peddle these unhealthy drinks with limited nutritional information on pack. It’s ludicrous that drinks such as lemonade are subject to the sugar tax yet a vodka and lemonade is exempt. Now is the time for tough government led action to protect this human right."

 We have a winner!

And what's the point of all this? As you might have worked out from comments above, he wants the sugar tax extended to alcopops. He doesn't seem to be aware that these drinks are already taxed at a very high rate. The tax on a can of ready-to-drink alcohol is at least four times higher than on a can of Coke. If he thinks that adding 6p to a gin and tonic is going to have any effect of sugar consumption, he needs his head examining.

As, indeed, he probably does.

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