European campaigning group Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE) has unveiled a trademarked SugarControl label it claims enables food companies to highlight the low- or no-sugar content of their products, in line with EU claims legislation.

SAFE said the move is in an effort to encourage consumers to cut back on sugar consumption to help combat rising obesity. More than half (51.6%) of European adults are overweight.

In 2015. the World Health Organization published new guidelines on sugar consumption for adults and children, recommending a reduction in the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. A reduction to less than 5% would be even more beneficial to health, said the organisation.

Products carrying the SugarControl trademark, which must be tested by an independent certified laboratory, can be labelled in one of four ways – Low Sugar, containing no more than 5g of sugar per 100g or 2.5g of sugar per 100ml of liquid; sugar free which means the product contains less than 0.5g of sugar per 100g or 100ml; No Added Sugars where the product does not contain added mono or disaccharides or any other food used for its sweetening properties, or Reduced Sugar, where the sugar content is reduced by a minimum of 30% compared to a similar product. In addition, products containing any of the four claims of the SugarControl trademark must not contain aspartame.

Despite rising obesity levels, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the empty calories that sugar contributes to their diet. Nearly half (47%) of those aged 18 – 34 have adopted a healthier diet, according to a survey by PwC last year, and this trend is expected to increase in the coming years.

SAFE claims the labeling scheme is not only of benefit to consumers but also offers advantages to the food industry. It is a means of providing a harmonised nutrition labelling across all EU member states, and complies with the EU priorities for action on diet, physical activity and health.

The campaigners also claimed the label answers a growing demand from consumers for sugar conscious products, and engenders consumer trust by carrying a certification from an independent NGO.