Sunday, 4 July 2010

British Sugar: An apology!


So last week, I made a rather flippant (and I hope funny, well maybe) joke about how you couldn’t get sugar in the UK. Turns out I was wrong. You can get British sugar! (Thank you Anne for your comment pointing this out)

Turns out there is this thing called sugar beet! Who knew (not me, clearly). Sugar beet is produced in the UK.

Sugar beet is a plant and the root contains a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown in the UK and the sugar is pretty much the same as the sugar from sugar cane. Sugar beet makes up 30% of the sugar that is consumed around the world. Here in the UK, we consume a tooth rotting million tonnes of sugar a year and over half of it is grown here! Over half! How did I not know this? In fact, household name Silver Spoon uses sugar beet grown in East Anglia. Well within a 100 miles!

I stand well and truly corrected.

So that cleared up, is it ethical? Well British Sugar is trying to make it so. They have taken steps to make sure they are using as energy efficient procedures as possible. For example, the factories where they extract the sugar are on average within 28 miles of the farm. This is important as sugar beet is bulky and heavy to transport. They also use the leftover pulp for animal feed – cutting down on waste! Tick tick!


In December 2008, British Sugar became the first sugar manufacturer to calculate, certify and publish the carbon footprint of our sugar. Apparently they are going to use the results of this too see how much more efficient they can be. Hmmmmm a bit vague but very good start for measuring it and being the first to do so.

However the big issue with the sugar beet is the amount of water that is needed. Sugar beet is made up of sugar, fibre and contains a large amount of embedded water. British Sugar is monitoring this water and 95% of it comes from rain water (has to be some benefit to living with our wet summers). Not only that, British Sugar then extracts the water from the beet and uses it for cleaning, heating, cooling and
transportation. In fact, an impressive 60% of the water they use comes from the beets!

Despite all this good stuff, it is however, still bad for your waist line and rots your teeth! (But tastes nice)

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