1Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 2Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de México, México, 3Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Ciudad de México, México.
Introduction: Caloric (CS) and Non-caloric sweeteners (NCS) are commonly added to processed and ultra-processed products, but our understanding in the Mexican food supply is limited. Objective: To describe the frequency and type of CS and NCS in packaged foods and beverages sold in Mexico before the implementation of the warning labelling system in October 2020. Methods: A sample of packaged foods and beverages sold in Mexico in 2016 and 2017 was classified in 23 food groups and categorized according to the list of ingredients in products with CS, with NCS, both (CS & NC) or none. Frequency and percentage in each food group were estimated. Results: Of the 23,763 packaged products analyzed (18,411 foods and 5,352 beverages), 37% were not sweetened, 49% contained CS, 5.2% NCS and 8.8% contained both. Thus, 14% of the products contained NCS and 57.8%, CS. The food groups with the highest frequency of CS were toppings (82%), desserts (77.2%) and beverages (46.4%), while the food groups with the highest frequency of NCS were candies (32.8%), beverages (17.1%), and toppings (7.0%). The most used NCS in foods were sucralose (3.3%), acesulfame-K (2.1%), stevia (1.2%) and aspartame (1.2%). Likewise, the NCS with the highest use in beverages were sucralose (17.3%), acesulfame-K (17.0%), stevia (9.4%) and aspartame (9.4%). As for CS, the most used in foods were sucrose (50%), fructose (18.5%) and mono/disaccharides (5%); same as for beverages (sucrose, 46.8%; fructose 14.6%, and mono/disaccharides, 12.2%). We found products up to 8 NCS, 5 CS, and combined up to 9. Conclusions: Before the implementation of the warning labels in Mexico the food industry used in high proportion CS and NCS, alone or in combination.
Keywords: non-caloric sweeteners, caloric sweeteners, ultra- processed products.