This paper contributes to public debate about sugar, the ill-health consequences of which have rightly been highlighted in recent years. This and an accompanying paper seek to dovetail these public health concerns with other issues arising from and associated with the sugar industries.
Sugar is a commodity with a long and troubled social history: slavery, colonialism, unequal trade relations, bad working conditions, heavy land use, pollution and other forms of environmental damage. On the other hand, it is a large employer, an economic lifeline for some small countries and many growers, and a considerable concern for the fair trade movement. The paper supports the public health concerns about unnecessary and rising consumption of sugar through processed foods and soft drinks, but mainly explores how these concerns can be squared with other interests championed by civil society organisations. It asks whether a progressive route can be charted through a potential minefield of conflicting interests.