Sugar Squad

I CAN'T tell you who I work for. But I can assure you that I am out there - on the beat daily. You might even have crossed my path. Unaware, we could have bumped carts, simultaneously reached for the last pot of yoghurt or maybe exchanged that frustrated but civil 'of-course-after-you-NO-after-YOU' smile in the queue. But you wouldn't have remarked on me - I was in disguise. You see, I've been in hot pursuit of my target for a couple of weeks now. My mark is a cunning one. But I think I've got him. It's a sure-fire bet that he'll be hanging around the convenience store or, if not, he's bound to show up after dinner - just in time for dessert. You know that a little nod in his direction, every once in a while, isn't going to hurt anyone. A small pay-off keeps him at bay. Careful not to arouse suspicion I grabbed my basket and disguised myself as a 'normal shopper'. My cover was so clean you wouldn't have been able to distinguish me from your average 'Skinny' or 'Joe'. Except, if you looked real close, you'd have noticed I was packin'. Armed with a Uni-ball black-ink pen and what appeared to be a used-envelope shopping list, I hit the aisles. Turns out the rap sheet is a mile long - and he, like me, goes incognito. About a third of all his appearances in what we can eat are in the guise of soft drinks. He's there too in baked goods (14 per cent) and fruit drinks (10 per cent).

Trouble for him is, in 'sweet' things it's an obvious bust. So he's got a deeper disguise too. He's there where you'd never suspect, in such things as breakfast cereals (four per cent). Take a look - 100 grams of Kellogg's Special K is laced with 17 grams. Heinz Baked Beans has 5.3 grams. I headed for the sauces. Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Coleman's Original Mustard, Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise and Amoy Soya Sauce were all moving between 1 and 24 grams - often billed as 'carbohydrates' - per 100 grams of their own product. Stakingout the refrigeration unit at the back, I caught one of the high-rollers in action - Yeo Valley 'Fat Free' Yoghurt was moving 15 grams per pot. He's even moved behind the lines of what you'd think were his sworn enemies. I apprehended Weight Watcher's 2 Minute Tomato Soup (Heinz) with 8.3 grams per pot, Slimfast Vanilla Shake laced with 10 grams. Like all big pushers, he's going after the youngest targets, too. Heinz Egg Custard with Rice baby-food was loaded with 8.9 grams. That's not the whole scoop - it's not just processed food for humans he uses as cover. Some generic store-brand cat foods list him as their fourth-largest ingredient. He's clearly a dangerous character. Best keep your eyes peeled.

New Internationalist issue 363 magazine cover This article is from the December 2003 issue of New Internationalist.
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