Sugar and obesity. Efsa set to revise Reference Intakes as WHO publishes new data


Sugar and obesity, One in three children obese, according to the latest WHO report. Efsa is set to revise the Reference Intakes. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully assess the risks associated with excessive sugar consumption, and devise appropriate measures to protect public health.

In Europe today, one in three children of primary school age (6-9 years) is reported to have obesity. With prevalence in countries bordering the Mediterranean. This is the finding of the report released these days by WHO Regional Office for Europe, (1) which highlights the excessive consumption of sweets and sugary drinks by children and adolescents.

Therefore, the empirical limit set at 90 grams of carbohydrates per day for an adult needs to be revised . (2) So many and perhaps too many, 18% of the recommended daily energy (2000 kcal). Almost double the threshold specified by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to which simple sugars should contribute no more than 10 percent of energy. Almost four times the intake of sugar recommended by WHO (or WHO, World Health Organization) itself, 5 percent of total energy. (3)

The European Food Safety Authority has been asked by five Scandinavian countries to revise its 2010 opinion on sugar consumption. Where scientific evidence (4) on sugar’s ability to promote overweight and obesity had not been considered. As well as type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity, glucose intolerance, and cardiovascular risk factors. As well as, more generally, inflammatory states. The only problem associated with sugar consumption appeared to be increased exposure to the risk of dental caries. (5)

EFSA’s opinion on Reference Intakes related to sugars is expected in 2020. After two rounds of consultations with relevant social partners (stakeholders), scheduled in 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, the epidemic of obesity and diabetes runs rampant, and industry lobbies continue to oppose both the adoption of nutrient profiles on foods and the use of synthetic nutrition information tools, such as theBritish ‘traffic lights’ or the French NutriScore system.

What interests should prevail? To each person any better reflection, according to conscience. The one missing is Big Food, which continues to invade kids’ entertainment spaces with the most unscrupulous social marketing to promote HFSS(High Fats, Sugars and Sodium) foods and drinks. Also known as junk-food, or junk food. Always waiting for rules-not sweetened-for the safeguarding of public health.


(1) Report Adolescents obesity and related behaviors, Trends and inequalities in the WHO European region, 2002-2014, ISBN 978 92 890 5240 5, at

(2) See reg. EU 1169/11, Annex XIII, Part B

(3) NB: Consuming a can of Coca-Cola or similar beverages is enough to exceed the amount of sugar recommended for an adult each day

(4) The scientific studies available at the time were found to be biased and inconclusive. Cf.

(5) The ‘caries risk’ moreover was not attributed to the amount but rather to the frequency of consumption of foods bearing sugar (e.g., chewing gum, candy)

+ posts

Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.