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Food and health

The sugar content of children’s and lunchbox beverages sold in the UK before and after the soft drink industry levy



Childhood obesity is associated with an increased intake of sugary soft drinks and juice drinks. The aims of this study were (1) to report the sugar and energy content in commercial fruit juice (FJ), juice drinks (JDs) and smoothies (S) specifically targeted at children in the UK, (2) to identify beverages liable for the soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) and (3) to compare the amount of sugar in these beverages before and after the levy.


The beverages were retrieved using the online shopping tool, my Supermarket, websites of nine major supermarkets in the UK and manufacturers webpages. Comparisons of sugar content were taken before and after the introduction of the SDIL.


131 FJJDS fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The mean sugar content of all the beverages was 6.3 g ± 4.5/100 mL. There was large variation in the sugar content from 0.1 g/100 mL to 15.2 g/100 mL, with smoothies found to contain the most sugar (11.55 ± 1.62 g/mL). The beverages were reanalysed in September 2018 to determine their eligibility for the SDIL. Of the 131 products only seven JDs were eligible for the levy. Four of these beverages had reformulated their ingredients since the initial analysis resulting in a sugar content of <5 g/100 mL.


The majority of the beverages targeted at children and children’s lunch boxes were not eligible for the SDIL. This study suggests the necessity to adapt the SDIL to include all FJJDS aimed at children as the total sugar content of these beverages are still above the recommended quantities for this age group.

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SEH and MEC developed the research question, BTYC and CPI collected the data. All authors contributed to the analysis of the findings of the paper and wrote the paper. All authors approved the final submission.

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Correspondence to Miriam E. Clegg.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Chu, B.T.Y., Irigaray, C.P., Hillier, S.E. et al. The sugar content of children’s and lunchbox beverages sold in the UK before and after the soft drink industry levy. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 598–603 (2020).

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