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"Diabetic" foods should be discontinued, says Diabetes UK

By News team

Labels, including "suitable for diabetics" and "diabetic", on food products may be misleading to patients and should be discontinued, Diabetes UK has declared in a new position statement, published last month (July 2013).

The charity calls for food manufacturers to terminate the use of these labels and recommends that retailers stop selling any products that feature them. The document also advises healthcare professionals not to recommend the products to people with diabetes.

The Diabetes UK position statement follows a new regulation (12 June 2013) about specialist foods — including "foods for special medical purposes" — from the European Commission. The regulation states that the scientific basis for setting specific compositional requirements for people with diabetes is lacking.

This regulation follows a report from the European Commission, released in 2008, which concluded that people with diabetes should choose a healthy diet and should be able to do so from normal foods.

Diabetes UK claims that labelling foods as "suitable for diabetics" and "diabetic" can be unhelpful and misleading, since the label may imply that the food carries a health benefit or requirement for people with diabetes. In fact, the report claims, these foods can often be high in fat and calories. Some products may also replace sucrose with polyols, which can make it difficult for patients to manage their insulin dose, it adds.

Advice is not new

Although this position statement from Diabetes UK is new, the advice from the organisation is not. In 2006, the Co-operative Group discontinued stocking "diabetic" foods, and Diabetes UK encouraged other supermarkets and pharmacies to do the same.

Andrew McCoig, chief executive of the Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth and Croydon local pharmaceutical committees, told PJ Online he believes pharmacies that stock these products are in the minority. "As the Diabetes UK statement says, these ‘foods’ labelled as diabetic were discredited as long as 30 years ago and I doubt that any rational pharmacist today would find shelf space for items of dubious commercial or nutritional value. The fact that this issue is still being raised today may be as a result of the fact that some European countries take a less strenuous position on these products."

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11124416

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