Sugar

India ranks second (Brazil comes first) in sugar production and consumption. India’s production is expected to rise to 24.5 million tonne although the annual demand is 22 million tonne. Sugar producing states are Uttar Pradesh (24%), Maharashtra (20%), Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There are 453 sugar mills in India of which 252 are co-operatives, 134 are private, and 67 are public sector mills.

Sugar derived from sugarcane in these refineries of India is vegan. Filtration and declourisation techniques for cane sugar can involve either bone char, traditional granular / activated carbon (coal, wood, coconut), or the use of synthetic ion exchange resins. Manufacturers of cane sugar in India use the latter or sulphur dioxide.

 

However, every now and then some one came up saying that sugar manufactured in India contained bone. In order to put this notion at rest, in 2017 Beauty Without Cruelty got 5 randomly chosen brands of sugar samples tested via Delhi based Voice Society (a consumer organisation) at one of NABL’s (National Accreditation Board for testing and calibration Laboratories) test labs, Shriram Institute for Industrial Research for DNA of animal origin. It was not detected. This scientifically proved that sugar made in India is vegan.


In April 2013, the Government of India announced partial decontrol over sugar in as much that it would no longer force sugar mills to sell at a discount, 10% of the sugar they produce to the Public Distribution System for resale in ration shops. However, basic issues affecting farmers like sugar cane price-control, regulation of cane areas, and restrictions on supply to sugar mills, would be addressed by state governments.


Sugar/sucrose can be produced from sugarcane, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, palm/coconut, sago, maple, corn, barley, grapes, dates, agave, and from honey and milk as well. The major categories of sugar produced worldwide are granulated, brown, liquid and invert sugar.

Raw sugar/pure sucrose/natural brown sugar is first manufactured by extracting juice from shredded sugarcane which for clarifying is heated along with phosphate and lime sucrate/milk of lime (both of mineral origin) so that impurities are removed. The clarified juice is then concentrated in evaporators and crystallised into raw sugar. Nothing is added during this process of clarification. Refined plantation white sugar, cubed and icing sugars are produced from raw sugar by melting and further clarifying by the ion exchange process or through the double sulphitation process in which sugar is passed through sulphur gas.


This sulphitation process involves the use of sulphur dioxide (SO2) twice. Since raw sugarcane juice is a little acidic with a low pH of 4 or 5, to prevent it turning into glucose or fructose, it is heated to 70°C and lime or calcium oxide (CaO) of mineral origin is added to it. This raises the pH to about 9.5. To bring down the pH to the neutral level of 7, it needs to be treated with SO2. In doing so, the CaO reacts with the SO2 to produce sulphites and sulphates of calcium which help to clarify the juice. However, the second time SO2 is used is in order to bleach (whiten) the sugar. It is added after the juice has been concentrated and is being crystallised. Although the soluble sulphur compounds are drained out with the molasses, some sulphur (more than what we can safely consume) remains in the white sugar and can result in respiratory diseases.

Countries such as USA and Europe do not import our sugar because of the adverse side effects of consuming sugar produced via the sulphitation process. In India, the maximum permissible limit of SO2 in white refined sugar is 70 parts per million (ppm) whereas the international standard is about 10 ppm.


Scientists from the National Sugar Institute, Kanpur and Deccan Sugar Technologist Association have carried out research with considerable success at the industrial scale also, to manufacture white sugar through a carbonation process without the use of sulphur. The addition of trace amounts of phosphoric acid (mineral origin) ensured a better neutralisation of pH, and also helped faster clarification of the juice.


VHP (Very High Polarization) sugar is mainly produced in Brazil. It is akin to raw sugar and brown in colour. Although classified as a chemical product it can be consumed, however, it is generally utilised to produce crystal or refined sugar. VLC (Very Low Colour) sugar is a new high polarization sugar developed in Australia for supply to refineries.


Brown sugar (light & dark / free flowing turbinado sugar / date sugar / Demerara/demerera sugar / Muscovado sugar / Barbados sugar) is either unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content or produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar.

 

Jaggery/Gur/Khandsari is usually made manually in rural areas from sugarcane juice and should ideally be dark in colour. The whiter it is the more caustic soda, sodium bicarbonate, zinc formaldehyde sulphoxylate (harmful – used by the textile industry), sodium hydrophosphide (also harmful) or even cheap detergent is added, but if calcium carbonate (shell/lime origin) is used, it also adds weight. Vegetable clarifiers are stem and root of green deola and bhindi, green bark of phalsa and semul trees, dry bark of sukhlai plant, castor seed, ground nut and soy bean. A cup of such mucilaginous vegetables are added to 100 cups of boiling sugar cane juice so the impurities rise to the top and can be skimmed off. Unfortunately, jaggery is some times adulterated with expired confectionery and chocolates.


Invert Sugar is created by combining sugar syrup with a small amount of acid such as cream of tartar (vegan) or lemon juice and heating. This inverts or breaks down the sucrose (chemical name for regular sugar) into glucose and fructose.


Growing sugarcane results in sugar, fodder, ethanol and solar energy COGEN (cogeneration) power plants set up by sugar mills. Ethanol derived from molasses, 5% of which is mixed with petrol for use in automobiles, is considered a by-product of the sugar industry.

 

Manufacture of beet sugar and ethanol in India is underway. Beet sugar processing is similar but is done in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage and therefore need not involve the use of bone char or natural carbon (calcinated ground animal bones which absorb colour and remove some ash) for decolourisation. Coconut shells, corn cobs, rice husk, wood chips and pinewood can be substituted for bone to make charcoal or carbon filters.


It is worth noting that some sugar refineries like Lantic Sugar, Montreal in Canada, that had been using bone char as the main decolourization system in their refinery process, replaced it completely by ion-exchange resulting in benefits for the refinery.


Palm/coconut/coco sugar also vegan, is a crystalline sugar (slightly brown in colour but its structure is not
well defined so looks like powdered sugar) made from the sap of palm or coconut trees called neera or from palm gur/jaggery is not as sweet as regular sugar. (It can also be extracted from sago.) When neera is converted into a solid or semi-solid mass, it is becomes gur. The process of sugar making is practically the same as that of gur in as much as that the juice is delimed, filtered and boiled. Clarification (commonly known as deliming) is carried out through the phosphoric acid or super phosphate solution. Palm sugar is available in India at Khadi Bhandars and fudge-like dark coloured cone/pyramid shaped mhada cha gur is available in Goa’s vegetable markets alongside coconuts which are sold for cooking purposes. The same dark palm jaggery from Managalore is usually set in thin hoops of bamboo; some times ginger and pepper are mixed into it before the syrup sets and is called masala jaggery. Jhola/patali/nolen gur (fresh date jaggery) is the sap of the date palm collected in earthen pots tied to trees at night during winter and is used in Bengali sweets either as a white liquid, yellow solid or hard brown toffee-like gur after boiling the sap which creates a huge amount of harmful smoke. (It was reported that in 2020 due to Amphan cyclone many date palm trees got destroyed in Jaynagar one of the main production areas in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district. This and warming temperatures resulted in a drop in production of sap which led to sugar syrup being used to enhance the volume of the jaggery.) Delicious palm candy is made in Bengal. Palm products like this candy and mhada cha gur are considered remedies for cold and cough.

 

Some different sugars: agave nectar/syrup, bakers special, barley sugar, brown sugar (light & dark) / free flowing brown sugar / turbinado sugar / date sugar / Demerara/demerera sugar / Muscovado sugar / Barbados sugar, brown rice malt syrup, candy sugar, castor sugar, coarse sugar, coconut sugar, confectioners/powdered sugar, corn sugar, corn starch/syrup, cube sugar, dextrose, flavoured sugars (like cinnamon and coffee), fructose/foots sugar, fruit sugar, galactose, granulated sugar/table sugar, golden syrup/cane syrup/kakvi, glucose, invert sugar, inverted sugar syrup/treacle/molasses, juice/sucanat, lactose/milk sugar, liquid sugar, maltose, mannitol/manna sugar/mannite, maple sugar, maple syrup, organic sugar, palm/coconut/arenga sugar, regular sugar/fine/extra fine sugar, sugar plum, rock sugar, sanding sugar, sugar loaf, super-fine/ultra-fine/bar sugar.


Speciality sugars: Demerara/demerera is raw/unrefined cane sugar having large crystals, but white sugar coloured brown is passed off as Demerara sugar. Dragées / Nonpareils / Sprinkles / Jimmies / Hundreds-and-Thousands are round, edible sugar balls in different sizes, coated with silver, gold or
sprinkled with powder/dusts such as Pearl Dust which are used for decorative purposes on cakes, chocolate confectionery, etc. Pearl Dust / Iridescent Powder is also known as Satin, Lustre, Petal, Sparkle dusts and are all made from pearls. Similarly, Nib/Pearl sugar is a type of refined sugar in 2 mm grains used for decoration of different pastries. (The US Food & Drug Administration considers the metallic-finish Dragées to be inedible and in Australia silver food additives classed as colouring E174 is banned.) Powdered/Icing/Confectioner’s sugar is a finely ground form of sugar used for icing or frosting of cake decorations. Icing/frosting on cakes is a sweet glaze generally made from icing sugar and butter, colour and essence, however, few drops of glycerine (or oil) could have been added to it to give an extra glaze. Royal icing contains egg white. Rolled Butter-cream/Rolled Fondant/Sugar-paste is a sweet pliable icing of powdered sugar, shortening, corn syrup, gelatine and glycerine with added flavour and optional colour. Pastillage is rolled fondant without any of the softening ingredients (glycerine, corn syrup or shortening) and is used for stiff decoration only, not to be eaten. Cake glazes can be water icing (sugar & water), melted chocolate in combination with cream, butter and/or sugar syrup, or fondant. Caramel is used to glaze some cakes and pastries and sugar cooked to the hard-crack stage can give pastries sheen. Tart glazes are made from jams, preserves or jellies, but pastry glazes brushed on dough before baking can be of sugar, egg, milk, cream and/or butter. Pastry / Decorator Brushes are usually made of nylon (not animal bristle) and used for smoothing icing, applying glaze or covering mixed dough lightly with egg white, melted fat, oil, cream, etc.


Sweeteners
such as dextrose, glucose (sorbitol), sucrose (sucralose), sorbic acid, xylose (xylitol – plant), fructose, stevia (plant), mannitol/manna sugar/mannite (plant), agave syrup/nectar (plant), corn syrup, and invert sugar are vegan whereas lactose (lactitol) is lacto-vegetarian. Saccharine (mineral origin) and sucralose are the most common artificial sweeteners. Others such as aspartame, neotame, and acesulfame potassium (all vegan) continue to be used as substitutes for sugar despite it being said that there is a strong connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer. Migraines, memory loss, nausea, dizziness, joint pain and fat storage have all been attributed to sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and sorbitol. In fact, according to a study, artificial sweeteners may spur diabetes by disrupting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Also, they may have been tested on animals. Moreover, the label “sugar-free” does not always mean “diet-friendly”. Ironically, “diet” drinks with artificial sweeteners encourage more fat to be stored in the body. And, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) used by manufacturers in place of sugar since it is cheaper is bad since it is linked to obesity as well as inflammation and heart disease. Many sweeteners are used in packed desserts, puddings, sauces, soft drinks, confectionery, tinned fruit, and vegetables.


The sugar substitutes approved by the FSSAI (Food Safety & Standards Authority of India) are saccharin/e (E954), aspartame (E951), acesulfame potassium or acesulfame K (E950), sucralose (E955), neotame (E961), isomaltulose (E953), polyols such as Xylitol (E967), Mannitol (E421) & Sorbitol (E420), and stevia. Except for the stevia which is of plant origin, they are all artificially made. However, we should keep in mind that consumption of artificial sweeteners has been linked with many health disorders including malignancy. It would therefore be wise to make it a habit to read ingredient labels on all packaged food articles and be aware of what we are consuming. After all these substitutes are permitted to be used in a wide range of products like soft drinks, pan masala, chocolates, confectionery, chewing/bubble gum, fruit nectars, bakery items (bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries, doughnuts), jams, jellies, custard powder, ice cream, ice lollies/candy, frozen dessert, puddings, flavoured milk, yoghurt, traditional sweets, chutney, lozenges, ready to serve beverages, etc.


The botanical name for stevia/sweetleaf/sugarleaf is Stevia rebaudiana. The leaves of this plant have 30-45 times the sweetness of ordinary sugar and can be eaten fresh or put in teas and foods. Stevia is said to have a negligible effect on blood glucose. In the 1970s the Japanese began cultivating
stevia as an alternative for sweeteners such as saccharin and cyclamate because they were suspected carcinogens – stevia is therefore widely used in their food products and soft drinks. Calorie and carbohydrate free, stevia not only helps diabetics and weight-watchers, but can avoid tooth decay.

 

There is another plant Costus igneus, commonly known in India as the insulin plant, the leaves of which lower blood glucose levels.


The illupai/mahua flower from the Indian Butter or Mahua tree is said to be sweet enough to replace sugar but whether it is advisable for diabetics to consume is unknown.

 

Miracle/miraculous berries/Synsepalum dulcificum and miraculin extracted from them, as well as curculin derived from a Malaysian fruit Curculigo latifolia (Hypoxidaceae) are considered natural sugar substitutes. Not sweet in themselves, but when taste buds are exposed to miracle berries, ordinarily sour foods are perceived as sweet and this taste lingers in the mouth for hours. The berries have therefore proved helpful to those undergoing chemotherapy and for diabetics.


Confectionery: Lactose/saccharum lactin/D-lactose (milk sugar), lecithin (egg/soy origin), capric acid/decanoic acid (animal/vegetable origin) can be used in certain sweets and candies. Hard-boiled sugar confectionery like sweets, lollipops, drops and candies (intended for sucking or licking) usually consist of hardened flavoured sucrose and corn syrup. Brittle rock sugar candy/mishri is also vegan. Barley sugar is hard candy sticks to which barley water and cream of tartar (vegan) is added, whereas barley sugar candy is made from corn syrup. Cotton candy/candy floss/fairy floss is a form of spun sugar which is usually coloured pink. Butterscotch is made from butter, brown sugar and flavouring. Toffee is made from molasses or sugar and butter in different textures and hardness. Toffee/caramel apples are apples on sticks coated with toffee. Taffy is a chewy, fruity flavoured candy made from corn syrup, butter and glycerine (may be of animal origin) wrapped in wax paper to keep soft. Marshmallows, jelly beans/candies, jujubes, gumdrops, gummy bears, and Turkish delight (all soft like rubber) usually contain gelatine. Gems/nutties/buttons and certain chewing gums are surface coated with shellac/lac, confectioner’s glaze (insect parts and wings) or beeswax. (Interestingly, Cadbury Gems no longer list “Shellac” as an ingredient, but in its place “Glazing Agent (E903)” i.e. Carnauba wax. This reminded us of the time when in the late 1970s BWC created public awareness (mainly among Jains in Mumbai) that egg was an ingredient of Bournvita and therefore non-veg. As it resulted in a drop in sales of Bournvita, Cadbury India re-formulated its recipe without egg as an ingredient.) Nougats are a mixture of caramelised sugar, almonds/other nuts, flavouring and could contain honey as well. Divinity/double divinity is a nougat-like confectionery based on egg whites and chopped nuts. Praline is a crisp sweet made of nuts and sugar. Fudge (a drier variant of fondant) is a very sweet and rich confectionery whose basic ingredients are sugar, butter and milk. Marzipan is a paste made from ground almonds and sugar moulded into decorative forms or used for icing cakes; it may or may not contain eggs.


Parle Extra Strong original peppermints contain gelatine although they do not declare it on their wrappers. Polo mints contain beef as stated on one of its foreign wrappers. So do many other sweets,
particularly if made in the Middle East. Hotlix is a bizarre brand of brittle candy made with real butterflies and insects (ants, crickets, scorpions, larvae and worms) inside and marketed as “a great gag gift”.

The sugar produced in India is called refined plantation white sugar which is vegan. The refined sugar (brown, white and powdered) manufactured abroad usually involves the bone char filter process. (Bones from cows are the only bones used to make bone charcoal.) This means that foreign refined sugar is non-vegetarian (plus if made from beetroots which grow underground, unacceptable to some Jains who do not consume them). However, in USA, beet sugar refineries generally use the vegetarian approved ION-exchange process in place of bone char filtering. This sugar is often labelled granulated or fine granular sugar.


Honey
, molasses, treacle, golden syrups, maple and corn syrups are also commonly used as sweeteners abroad. (Imitation maple syrup is corn syrup flavoured with the sweet spice sotolon or fenugreek/methi extract, whereas Mapleine is imitation maple flavouring.) Whereas honey is the food of bees, and molasses is vegetarian, other syrups could have been processed with pork fat, milk products or animal origin glycerine. Furthermore it should be noted that refined sugar marked Kosher maybe unfit for consumption by vegetarians because it may have undergone refining using bone charcoal and Kosher gelatine could have been made from fish bones. In recent times animal origin ingredients which are highly processed (such as gelatine, lecithin, stearates, sugar, etc.) are being certified as Kosher/Parvé.


On a trip abroad, it is obviously not possible to ascertain the origin and type of sugar consumed in food.
However, as many Indians do carry home-made foods with them, if they are particular on consuming only vegetarian sugar in the tea they drink, they could as well include some Indian-made sugar in their baggage!

Few people know that it is mandatory to add Vitamin A as a fortifier to commonly utilised food products such as Vanaspati in India, and sugar, flour, etc. in certain Third World countries for supposed health benefits.


However sugar in itself is certainly not beneficial and its excess consumption leads to Type 2 Diabetes and diseases like obesity, heart and tooth decay. (According to the International Diabetes Federation 61.3 million people in India had diabetes in 2011, and we ranked second highest the world – China was first.) So then how much sugar is excess? Most get shocked to how much sugar we are consuming without realising. Our daily consumption could easily be a high as 25 teaspoons or 100 grams. For example a cola contains 40 grams, every teaspoon of sugar in our tea and coffee is 4 grams, a slice of brown bread has 1 gram and white bread 2 grams, and almost every packaged food article contains sugar which could be listed as fructose with “no added sugar” declared on the package! (Dr Robert H Lustig, an endocrinologist of the University of California’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” has been viewed over 4.5 million times on YouTube.) Remember, sugar gets consumed in processed foods without people realising (checking) it is an ingredient. The Sugar Science website states that added sugars hide in 74% of processed foods under more than 60 different names, for example dextrose, maltose, galactose and maltodextrin. The World Health Organisation feels no more than 5% of one’s daily calories should constitute of free sugar which includes added sugar in food as well as sugar found in fruit, juices, syrups, etc. – any thing that’s sweet. Interestingly, till the end of the medieval period, sugar was expensive and considered a “fine spice” but during the 1500s technology turned it into a “bulk commodity” and today it is an “essential commodity” in India that sells at a highly subsidised price.

 

In 2014 WHO (the World Health Organisation) lowered their recommendation for sugar from 10% to 5% of a person’s total caloric intake, i.e. 4.5 teaspoons/day for a 2000 Kcal diet for an average person. This was followed by the Government of India suggesting to aerated drink manufacturers to reduce the sugar in their carbonated soft drinks and other beverages such as colas, sodas, fruit, cordials, sherbets, squashes, juices, pannas, thandai and iced teas. Sugar addiction can result in obesity, heart disease and cancer.

It is not in the least surprising that the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) found nothing wrong in sugar consumption even if it was added to food and drinks. This is so despite many international studies having proved sugar to be unhealthy. The ISMA is also against the Food Safety Standards of India (FSSAI) implementing their draft 2017 Food Labelling Regulations that require a red mark on packs of food items where added sugar is more than 10% pf the total energy.

Interestingly, in 2015 the New York Times uncovered a nexus between Coca Cola and researchers who minimised the effects of sugary drinks on obesity. Also in 2016 the Associated Press exposed how the candy lobby in USA had funded research tht made the outlandish claim that children who eat cady tend to weigh less. And way back in 1967 the US trade association had paid researchers at Harvard University to exonerate sugar of coronary heart disease.


Reversing Diabetes in 21 Days


The book “Reversing Diabetes in 21 Days: A Nutrition-Based Approach to Diabetes and Related Problems” by Dr Nandita Shah, has helped many persons.

Based on her revolutionary diabetes reversal programme, Dr Shah renowned homeopath, founder-director of SHARAN, and BWC life member, elaborately breaks down the real cause of diabetes using scientific evidence and intelligently outlines a routine that will not just prevent the disease but also reverse it.

By addressing the cause of insulin resistance and lack of insulin the book provides a fresh and practical perspective on how to cure diabetes. It carefully takes into account the Indian context customs, tastes and thought processes to tailor the best possible step-by-step guide that an average Indian can follow.

Interspersed with testimonial, stories and real-life experiences of past participants, this book will show you that type 2 diabetes and many cases of type 1 diabetes are indeed reversible.


Killing for Sweetness


Farmers of Maharashtra catch, kill and sell white grub beetles which pose a threat to their sugarcane plants. The beetles lay eggs on fields around June which hatch in a fortnight. The larvae live for 7 months and chew at the roots of plants before becoming pupae. The beetles emerge with the first monsoon showers the following June and lay eggs. Chemical pest control has been rejected by farmers and many have opted for this mode of biological control by intervening in the lifecycle of the beetles by killing them between June and August just before they lay eggs. For every kilogram of dead beetles the Vasantdada Sugar Institute pays Rs 300.


Few know that a side-effect of the sugar industry upon animals is the common harvesting practice of burning cane fields when all life like insects, rats and snakes residing in the fields are charred to death.


Another side-effect is that leopards, known to live undisturbed by humans in sugar cane fields till harvest time between January and April. Man-animal conflicts arise then because leopards taken by surprise, attack humans. Studies have shown the density of leopards in the sugar cane fields of Junnar (Maharashtra) is higher than in reserved forests. For example, in February 2018, three leopard cubs were charred to death in a sugar cane field near Ozar (Pune-Nashik Highway, Maharashtra). The fire was suspected to have started from a short circuit in an overhead power cable. Then in 2019 five new born cubs were burnt to death in Ambegaon taluka’s Manchar (Maharashtra) when farmers started a fire to kill a poisonous snake. However, three month-old leopard cubs discovered during harvesting in a sugar cane field at Nagargaon village in Shirur Range, Maharashtra, were rescued and reunited with their mother in November 2019. As per the “Status of leopards, co-predators, and mega-herbivores in India – 2018” of the 1,690 leopards in Maharashtra, only 600 (35%) were recorded in protected areas. In other words, 65% lived outside wild life parks – no wonder they are found in sugar cane fields. (India has 12,852 leopards as compared to the 2014 estimate of 7,910.)

In 2022 the Wildlife Institute of India completed a 2 year survey in which it was observed that captured leopards return to the same village even if released in the forest as far as 80 kms away. They obviously prefer to live undetected in sugar cane fields where easy prey and water is available.

Page last updated on 09/11/22