Sugar

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Magnification of typical sugar showing monoclinic hemihedral crystalline structure.

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Magnified crystals of refined sugar

In non-scientific use, the term sugar refers to sucrose (also called "table sugar" or "saccharose") — a white crystalline solid disaccharide. Humans most commonly use sucrose as their sugar of choice for altering the flavor and properties (such as mouthfeel, preservation, and texture) of beverages and food. Commercially-produced table sugar comes either from sugar-cane or from sugar-beet.

Scientifically, sugar refers to any monosaccharide or disaccharide. Monosaccharides (also called "simple sugars"), such as glucose, store energy which biological cells use and consume.

In a list of ingredients, any word that ends with "ose" will likely denote a sugar. Sometimes such words may also refer to any types of carbohydrates soluble in water.

In culinary terms, the foodstuff known as sugar delivers one of the primary taste sensations, that of sweetness.

Contents

Etymology

The English word "sugar" may ultimately originate from the Sanskrit word sharkara or śarkarā, which means "sugar" or "pebble". It probably came to English by way of the French, Spanish and/or Italians who derived their word for sugar from the Arabic al sukkar (whence the Portuguese word açucar, the Spanish word azúcar, the Italian word zucchero, the Old French word zuchre and the contemporary French word sucre). The Arabs in turn presumably derived their word from the Persian shakar, derived from the original Sanskrit. Compare the OED.

Note that the English word jaggery (coarse brown Indian sugar) has similar ultimate etymological origins.

Sugar as food

Originally a luxury, sugar eventually became sufficiently cheap and common to influence standard cuisine. Britain and the Caribbean islands have cuisines where sugar usage has become particularly prominent.

Sugar forms a major element in confectionery and in desserts. Cooks use it as a food preservative as well as for sweetening.

Vegetarian/Vegan concerns

Bone char (calcinated animal bones) is often used in the sugar refining industry for decolorizing. This is a concern for vegans and vegetarians, since about a quarter of the sugar in the US is processed using bone char as a filter (about half of all sugar from sugar cane is processed with bone char, the rest with activated carbon). As bone char does not get into the sugar, sugar processed this way is considered parve/Kosher.

Sugar and health


Tooth decay

Tooth decay is likely one of the most prominent health hazards from the use of sugar. When the pH at the surface of the tooth drops below 5.5, due to the introduction of sugar onto the tooth's surface, demineralization proceeds faster than remineralization (i.e. there is a net loss of mineral structure on the tooth's surface). This results in the ensuing decay of the tooth.

Diabetes

Type II diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the body's cell ignore the insulin released into the bloodstream. Insulin is important in taking sugar molecules into the cell for fuel. When glucose builds up in the blood stream, it can cause two main problems:

  • In the short term, glucose build up can cause the body's cells to be starved for energy.
  • In the long term, frequent glucose build up can damage many of the bodies organs including: the eyes, kidneys, nerves and/or heart.

However, while sugars may adversley affect those with diabetes, it is not shown to cause it.


Obesity

In the United States of America, a scientific/health debate has started over the causes of a steep rise in obesity in the general population — and one view posits increased consumtion of carbohydrates in recent decades as a major factor.<ref>[1]</ref>

United Nations advice

In 2003, four United Nations agencies, (including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)) commissioned a report compiled by a panel of 30 international experts. The panel stated that the total of free sugars (all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices) should not account for more than 10% of the energy-intake of a healthy diet, while carbohydrates in total should represent between 55% and 75% of the energy-intake (table 6, page 56 of the WHO Technical Report Series 916, Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases).

Sugar producers’ advice

However, the Sugar Association of the United States of America insists that other evidence indicates that a quarter of human food and drink intake can safely consist of sugar.

Debate

Argument continues as to the value of extrinsic sugar (sugar added to food) compared to that of intrinsic sugar (sugars - seldom sucrose - naturally present in food). Adding sugar to food particularly enhances taste, but has drawbacks of boosting calories, among other negative effects on health and physiology.

In the United States of America, sugar has become increasingly evident in food products, as more food-manufacturers add sugar or high-fructose corn-syrup to a surprising variety of consumables. Candy-bars, soft drinks, chips, snacks, fruit-juice, peanut-butter, soups, ice-cream, jams, jellies, yogurt, and many breads have added sugars. Five Alive, for example, which portrays itself as "all natural" and has pictures of five different types of fruit on its label, comprises only 41% fruit juice, having high fructose corn syrup as its prime ingredient.

Many doctors argue that health authorities should classify sugar and high-fructose corn-syrup as food additivesTemplate:Facts. Some go as far as to call sugar a poison. Sugar-cane in its natural form provides a rich source of vitamins and minerals, but refined sugar lacks nutrients. It can cause critical growth-hormone deficiency, and depletes the body of potassium and magnesium.Template:Facts

Sugar and hyperactivity

The general public in the United States of America commonly believes that eating too much sugar (not only sucrose, but also other varieties such as glucose) will cause all children to become hyperactive — giving rise to the terms "sugar high", "sugar rush" and "sugar buzz". Recent studiesTemplate:Facts have not shown a link between the consumption of sugar and levels of hyperactivity, even when the researchers focused on children with a presumed "sugar-sensitivity". If parents and teachers believe in the possibility of a sugar-high, this may cause them to perceive children as more energetic and excited after consumption of sweets and sugary beverages through observer bias. (Note that the experiments did not take place in the context of a control-group following a base diet-level matching the recommendation of the WHO/FAO (stated above) to avoid the impacts of added extrinsic sugars cited above — and so could not give conclusive results. The studies do show that increased levels of sugar-intake — above the high level taken in a standard U.S. diet — have no impact on levels of hyperactivity that may or may not already exist.)

Others believe that children and adults show the hyperactive effects of sugar equally. On average, Americans eat or drink approximately five pounds of sugar a month. <ref> http://www.cspinet.org/new/sugar_limit.html </ref>

Production

Harvested sugarcane ready for processing

Table sugar (sucrose) comes from plant sources. Two important sugar crops predominate: sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) and sugar beets (Beta vulgaris), in which sugar can account for 12% to 20% of the plant's dry weight. Some minor commercial sugar crops include the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), sorghum (Sorghum vulgare), and the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). In the financial year 2001/2002, worldwide production of sugar amounted to 134.1 million tonnes.

The first production of sugar from sugar-cane took place in India. Alexander the Great's companions reported seeing "honey produced without the intervention of bees" and it remained exotic in Europe until the Arabs started cultivating it in Sicily and Spain. Only after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as a sweetener in Europe. The Spanish began cultivating sugar-cane in the West Indies in 1506 (and in Cuba in 1523). The Portuguese first cultivated sugar-cane in Brazil in 1532.

Most cane-sugar comes from countries with warm climates, such as Brazil, Pakistan, India, China and Australia. In 2001/2002 developing countries produced over twice as much sugar as developed countries. The greatest quantity of sugar comes from Latin America, the United States, the Caribbean nations, and the Far East.

Beet-sugar comes from regions with cooler climates: northwest and eastern Europe, northern Japan, plus some areas in the United States (including California). In the northern hemisphere, the beet-growing season ends with the start of harvesting around September. Harvesting and processing continues until March in some cases. The availability of processing-plant capacity, and the weather both influence the duration of harvesting and processing - the industry can lay up harvested beet until processed, but frost-damaged beet becomes effectively unprocessable.

The European Union (EU) has become the world's second-largest sugar exporter. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU sets maximum quotas for members' production to match supply and demand, and a price. Europe exports excess production quota (approximately 5 million tonnes in 2003). Part of this, "quota" sugar, gets subsidised from industry levies, the remainder (approximately half) sells as "C quota" sugar at market prices without subsidy. These subsidies and a high import tariff make it difficult for other countries to export to the EU states, or to compete with the Europeans on world markets.

The United States sets high sugar prices to support its producers, with the effect that many former consumers of sugar have switched to corn syrup (beverage-manufacturers) or moved out of the country (candy-makers).

The cheap prices of glucose syrups produced from wheat and corn (maize) threaten the traditional sugar market. In combination with artificial sweeteners, drink manufacturers can produce very low-cost products.

Cane

Cane-sugar producers have crushed the harvested vegetable material to collect and filter the juice. They then treat the liquid to remove impurities and then neutralize it. Boiling the juice then allows the sediment to settle to the bottom for dredging out, while the scum rises to the surface for skimming off. In cooling, the liquid crystallizes, usually in the process of stirring, to produce sugar crystals.

Beet

File:SugarBeet.jpg
Sugar beets


Beet-sugar producers slice the washed beets, then extract the sugar with hot water in a "diffuser". An alkaline solution ("milk of lime" and carbon dioxide from the lime kiln) then serves to precipitate impurities (see carbonatation). After filtration, evaporation concentrates the juice to a content of about 70% solids, and controlled crystallisation extracts the sugar. A centrifuge removes the sugar crystals from the liquid, which gets recycled in the crystalliser stages. When economic constraints prevent the removal of more sugar, the manufacturer discards the remaining liquid, now known as molasses.

Sieving the resultant white sugar produces different grades for selling.

Cane versus beet

Little perceptible difference exists between sugar produced from beet and that from cane. Tests can distinguish the two, and some tests aim to detect fraudulent abuse of EU subsidies or to aid in the detection of adulterated fruit-juice.

The production of sugar results in residues which differ substantially depending on the raw materials used and on the place of production. While cooks often use cane molasses in food, humans find molasses from sugar beet unpalatable, and it therefore ends up mostly as industrial fermentation feedstock, or as animal-feed. Once dried, either type of molasses can serve as fuel for burning.

Culinary sugars

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Grainier, raw sugar

So-called raw sugars comprise yellow to brown sugars made from clarified cane-juice boiled down to a crystalline solid with minimal chemical processing. Raw sugars result from the processing of sugar-beet juice, but only as intermediates en route to white sugar. Types of raw sugar available as a specialty item outside the tropics include demerara, muscovado, and turbinado. Mauritius and Malawi export significant quantities of such specialty sugars. Manufacturers sometimes prepare raw sugar as loaves rather than as a crystalline powder, by pouring sugar and molasses together into molds and allowing the mixture to dry. This results in sugar-cakes or loaves, called jaggery or gur in India, pingbian tang in China, and panela, panocha, pile, piloncillo and pão-de-açúcar in various parts of Latin America. Truly raw sugar (unheated and made from sugar-cane grown on farms in South America) does not have a large market-share.

Mill white sugar, also called plantation white, crystal sugar, or superior sugar, consists of raw sugar where the production process does not remove colored impurities, but rather bleaches them white by exposure to sulfur dioxide. Though the most common form of sugar in sugarcane-growing areas, this product does not store or ship well; after a few weeks, its impurities tend to promote discoloration and clumping.

Blanco directo, a white sugar common in India and other south Asian countries, comes from precipitating many impurities out of the cane juice by using phosphatation — a treatment with phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide similar to the carbonatation technique used in beet-sugar refining. In terms of sucrose purity, blanco directo is more pure than mill white, but less pure than white refined sugar.

White refined sugar has become the most common form of sugar in North America as well as in Europe. Refined sugar can be made by dissolving raw sugar and purifying it with a phosphoric acid method similar to that used for blanco directo, a carbonatation process involving calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide, or by various filtration strategies. It is then further decolorized by filtration through a bed of activated carbon or bone char depending on where the processing takes place. Beet sugar refineries produce refined white sugar directly without an intermediate raw stage. White refined sugar is typically sold as granulated sugar, which has been dried to prevent clumping.

Granulated sugar comes in various crystal sizes — for home and industrial use — depending on the application:

  • Coarse-grained sugars, such as sanding sugar (nibbed sugar or sugar nibs) find favor for decorating cookies (biscuits) and other desserts.
  • Normal granulated sugars for table use: typically they have a grain size about 0.5 mm across
  • Finer grades result from selectively sieving the granulated sugar
    • caster sugar (0.35 mm), commonly used in baking
    • superfine sugar, also called baker's sugar, berry sugar, or bar sugar — favored for sweetening drinks or for preparing meringue

Retailers also sell sugar cubes or lumps for convenient consumption of a standardised amount. Suppliers of sugar cubes make them by mixing sugar crystals with sugar syrup. Sugar cubes were invented by Jakub Kryštof Rad in 1841.

File:Sa brownsugar.jpg
Brown sugar crystals

Brown sugars come from the late stages of sugar refining, when sugar forms fine crystals with significant molasses-content, or from coating white refined sugar with a cane molasses syrup. Their color and taste become stronger with increasing molasses-content, as do their moisture-retaining properties. Brown sugars also tend to harden if exposed to the atmosphere, although proper handling can reverse this.

The World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations expert report (WHO Technical Report Series 916 Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases) defines free sugars as all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit-juices. This includes all the sugars referred to above. The term distinguishes these forms from all other culinary sugars added in their natural form with no refining at all.

Natural sugars comprise all completely unrefined sugars: effectively all sugars not defined as free sugars. The WHO Technical Report Series 916 Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases approves only natural sugars as carbohydrates for unrestricted consumption. Natural sugars come in fruit, grains and vegetables in their natural or cooked form.

Chemistry

File:Saccharose.svg
Sucrose, a disaccharide of glucose (left); and fructose, important molecules in the body.

Biochemists regard sugars as relatively simple carbohydrates. Sugars include monosaccharides, disaccharides, trisaccharides and the oligosaccharides - containing 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more monosaccharide units respectively. Sugars contain either aldehyde groups (-CHO) or ketone groups (C=O), where there are carbon-oxygen double bonds, making the sugars reactive. Most sugars conform to (CH2O)n where n is between 3 and 7. A notable exception, deoxyribose, as its name suggests, has a "missing" oxygen atom. As well as being classified by their reactive group, sugars are also classified by the number of carbons they contain. Derivatives of trioses (C3H6O3) are intermediates in glycolysis. Pentoses (5 carbon sugars) include ribose and deoxyribose, which are present in nucleic acids. Ribose is also a component of several chemicals that are important to the metabolic process, including NADH and ATP. Hexoses (6 carbon sugars) include glucose which is a universal substrate for the production of energy in the form of ATP. Through photosynthesis plants produce glucose which is then converted for storage as an energy reserve in the form of other carbohydrates such as starch, or as in cane and beet as sucrose.

Many pentoses and hexoses can form ring structures. In these closed-chain forms, the aldehyde or ketone group is not free, so many of the reactions typical of these groups cannot occur. Glucose in solution exists mostly in the ring form at equilibrium, with less than 0.1% of the molecules in the open-chain form.

Monosaccharides in a closed-chain form can form glycosidic bonds with other monosaccharides, creating disaccharides (such as sucrose) and polysaccharides (such as starch). Enzymes must hydrolyse or otherwise break these glycosidic bonds before such compounds will metabolise. After digestion and absorption the principal monosaccharides present in the blood and internal tissues are: glucose, fructose, and galactose.

The prefix "glyco-" indicates the presence of a sugar in an otherwise non-carbohydrate substance. Note for example glycoproteins, proteins to which one or more sugars are connected.

Simple sugars include sucrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, maltose, lactose and mannose. Disaccharides occur most commonly as sucrose (cane or beet sugar - made from one glucose and one fructose), lactose (milk sugar - made from one glucose and one galactose) and maltose (made of two glucoses). These disaccharides have the formula C12H22O11.

Hydrolysis can convert sucrose into a syrup of fructose and glucose, producing invert sugar. This resulting syrup is sweeter than the original sucrose, and is useful for making confections because it does not crystalize as easily and thus produces a smoother finished product.

History

The process of making sugar by evaporating juice from sugarcane developed in India around 500 BC. Sugarcane, a tropical grass, probably originated in New Guinea. During prehistoric times its culture spread throughout the Pacific Islands and into India. By 200 BC producers in China had begun to grow it too. Westerners learned of sugarcane in the course of military expeditions into India. Nearchos, one of Alexander the Great's commanders, described it as "a reed that gives honey without bees".

Originally, people chewed the cane raw to extract its sweetness. Sugar refining developed in South Asia, the Middle East and China, where sugar became a staple of cooking and desserts. Early refining methods involved grinding or pounding the cane in order to extract the juice, and then boiling down the juice or drying it in the sun to yield sugary solids that resembled gravel. The Sanskrit word for "sugar" (sharkara), also means "gravel". Similarly, the Chinese use the term "gravel sugar" (Traditional Chinese: 砂糖) for table sugar.

Sugar later spread to other areas of the world through trade.

Cane sugar in the West

File:Evstafiev-zafra.jpg
A sugar-cane cutter in Cuba

The Arabs and Berbers introduced sugar to Western Europe when they conquered the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century AD. Crusaders also brought sugar home with them after their campaigns in the Holy Land, where they encountered caravans carrying "sweet salt". Crusade chronicler William of Tyre described sugar as "very necessary for the use and health of mankind."

The 1390s saw the development of a better press, which doubled the juice obtained from the cane. This permitted economic expansion of sugar plantations to Andalucia and to the Algarve. The 1420s saw sugar-production extended to the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores.

In August 1492 Christopher Columbus stopped at Gomera in the Canary Islands, for wine and water, intending to stay only four days. He became romantically involved with the Governor of the island, Beatrice de Bobadilla, and stayed a month. When he finally sailed she gave him cuttings of sugarcane, which became the first to reach the New World.

The Portuguese took sugar to Brazil. Hans Staden, published in 1555, writes that by 1540 Santa Catalina Island had 800 sugar-mills and that the north coast of Brazil, Demarara and Surinam had another 2000. Approximately 3000 small mills built before 1550 in the New World created an unprecedented demand for cast iron gears, levers, axles and other implements. Specialist trades in mold making and iron casting were inevitably created in Europe by the expansion of sugar. Sugar mill construction is the missing link of the technological skills needed for the Industrial Revolution that is recognized as beginning in the first part of the 1600s.

After 1625 the Dutch carried sugarcane from South America to the Caribbean islands — from Barbados to the Virgin Islands. The years 1625 to 1750 saw sugar become worth its weight in gold. Prices declined slowly as production became multi-sourced, especially through British colonial policy. Sugar-production increased in mainland North American colonies, in Cuba, and in Brazil. African slaves became the dominant plantation-workers as they proved resistant to the diseases of malaria and yellow fever. European indentured servants remained in shorter supply, susceptible to disease and overall forming a less economic investment. (European diseases such as smallpox had reduced the numbers of local Native Americans.)

With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. These islands could supply sugar-cane using slave-labor and produce sugar at prices vastly lower than those of cane sugar imported from the East. Thus the economies of entire islands such as Guadaloupe and Barbados became based on sugar production. By 1750 the French colony known as Saint-Domingue (subsequently the independent country of Haiti) became the largest sugar-producer in the world. Jamaica too became a major producer in the 18th century. Sugar-plantations fueled a demand for manpower; between 1701 and 1810 ships brought nearly one million slaves to work in Jamaica and in Barbados.

During the eighteenth century, sugar became enormously popular and the sugar-market went through a series of booms. The heightened demand and production of sugar came about to a large extent due to a great change in the eating habits of many Europeans. For example, they began consuming jams, candy, tea, coffee, cocoa, processed foods, and other sweet victuals in much greater numbers. Reacting to this increasing craze, the islands took advantage of the situation and began harvesting sugar in extreme amounts. In fact, they produced up to ninety percent of the sugar that the western Europeans consumed. Of course some islands were more successful than others when it came to producing the product. For instance, Barbados and the British Leewards can be said to have been the most successful in the production of sugar because it counted for 93% and 97% respectively of each island’s exports.

Planters later began developing ways to boost production even more. For example, they began using more animal manure when growing their crops. They also developed more advanced mills and began using better types of sugar-cane. Despite these and other improvements, the price of sugar reached soaring heights, especially during events such as the revolt against the Dutch and the Napoleonic Wars. Sugar remained in high demand, and the islands' planters knew exactly how to take advantage of the situation.

As Europeans established sugar-plantations on the larger Caribbean islands, prices fell, especially in Britain. By the eighteenth century all levels of society had become common consumers of the former luxury product. At first most sugar in Britain went into tea, but later confectionery and chocolates became extremely popular. Suppliers commonly sold sugar in solid cones and consumers required a sugar nip, a pliers-like tool, to break off pieces.

Sugar-cane quickly exhausts the soil in which it grows, and planters pressed larger islands with fresher soil into production in the nineteenth century. In this century, for example, Cuba rose to become the richest land in the Caribbean (with sugar as its dominant crop) because it had the only major island land-mass free of mountainous terrain. Instead, nearly three-quarters of its land formed a rolling plain — ideal for planting crops. Cuba also prospered above other islands because Cubans used better methods when harvesting the sugar crops: they adopted modern milling-methods such as water-mills, enclosed furnaces, steam-engines, and vacuum-pans. All these technologies increased productivity.

After the Haïtian Revolution established the independent state of Haiti, sugar production in that country declined and Cuba replaced Saint-Domingue as the world's largest producer.

Long established in Brazil, sugar-production spread to other parts of South America, as well as to newer European colonies in Africa and in the Pacific, where it became especially important in Fiji.

The rise of beet sugar

In 1747 the German chemist Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beet root. This discovery remained a mere curiosity for some time, but eventually his student Franz Achard built a sugarbeet-processing factory at Cunern in Silesia, under the patronage of Frederick William III of Prussia (reigned 1797 - 1840). While never profitable, this plant operated from 1801 until it suffered destruction during the Napoleonic Wars (ca 1802 - 1815).

Napoleon, cut off from Caribbean imports by a British blockade and at any rate not wanting to fund British merchants, banned sugar imports in 1813. The beet-sugar industry that emerged in consequence grew, and today, sugar-beet provides approximately 30% of world sugar production.

While no longer grown by slaves, sugar from developing countries has an on-going association with workers earning minimal wages and living in extreme poverty. Cuba continued as a large producer of sugar until the late 20th century, when the collapse of the Soviet Union took away its export market and the industry collapsed.

In the developed countries, the sugar industry relies on machinery, with a low requirement for manpower. A large beet-refinery producing around 1,500 tonnes of sugar a day needs a permanent workforce of about 150 for 24-hour production.

Mechanization

Beginning in the late 18th century, sugar production became increasingly mechanized. The steam engine first powered a sugar mill in Jamaica in 1768, and soon thereafter, steam replaced direct firing as the source of process heat.

In 1813 the British chemist Edward Charles Howard invented a method of refining sugar that involved boiling the cane juice not in an open kettle, but in a closed vessel heated by steam and held under partial vacuum. At reduced pressure, water boils at a lower temperature, and this development both saved fuel and reduced the amount of sugar lost through caramelization. Further gains in fuel efficiency came from the multiple-effect evaporator, designed by the African-American engineer Norbert Rillieux perhaps as early as the 1820s, although the first working model dates from 1845. This system consisted of a series of vacuum pans, each held at a lower pressure than the previous one. The vapors from each pan were used to heat the next, and little heat wasted. Today, multiple-effect evaporators are employed widely in many industries for evaporating water.

The process of separating the sugar from the molasses also received mechanical attention: David Weston first applied the centrifuge to this task in Hawaii in 1852.

Measuring sugar content

Dissolved sugar content Scientists use degrees Brix (symbol °Bx), introduced by Antoine Brix, as units of measurement of the mass ratio of dissolved substance to water in a liquid. A 25 °Bx sucrose solution has 25 grams of sucrose sugar per 100 grams of liquid. Or, to put it another way, 25 grams of sucrose sugar and 75 grams of water exist in the 100 grams of solution.

An infrared Brix sensor measures the vibrational frequency of the sugar molecules, giving a Brix degrees measurement. This does not equate to Brix degrees from a density or refractive index measurement because it will specifically measure dissolved sugar concentration instead of all dissolved solids. When using a refractometer, one should report the result as "refractometric dried substance" (RDS). One might speak of a liquid as having 20 °Bx RDS. This refers to a measure of percent by weight of total dried solids and, although not technically the same as Brix degrees determined through an infrared method, renders an accurate measurement of sucrose content, since sucrose in fact forms the majority of dried solids. The advent of in-line infrared Brix measurement sensors has made measuring the amount of dissolved sugar in products economical using a direct measurement.

The usual method for measuring the purity of sugar, ie the sucrose content, is by polarimetry - the measurement of the rotation of plane polarized light by a solution of sugar.

Sugar economics

Historically one of the most widely-traded commodities in the world, sugar accounts for around 2% of the global dry cargo market. International sugar prices show great volatility, ranging from around 3 to over 60 cents per pound in the past 50 years. Of the world's 180-odd countries, around 100 produce sugar from beet or cane, a few more refine raw sugar to produce white sugar, and all countries consume sugar. Consumption of sugar ranges from around 3 kilogrammes per person per annum in Ethiopia to around 40 kg/person/yr in Belgium. Consumption per capita rises with income per capita until it reaches a plateau of around 35kg per person per year in middle-income countries.

Many countries subsidize sugar-production heavily. The European Union, the United States, Japan and many developing countries subsidize domestic production and maintain high tariffs on imports. Sugar prices in these countries have often exceeded prices on the international market by up to three times; today, with world market sugar futures prices currently strong, such prices typically exceed world prices by two times.

Within international trade bodies, especially in the World Trade Organization, the "G20" countries led by Brazil have long argued that because these sugar markets essentially exclude cane-sugar imports, the G20 sugar-producers receive lower prices than they would under free trade. While both the European Union and United States maintain trade agreements whereby certain developing and less-developed countries (LDCs) can sell certain quantities of sugar into their markets, free of the usual import tariffs, countries outside these preferred trade régimes have complained that these arrangements violate the "most favoured nation" principle of international trade.

In 2004, the WTO sided with a group of cane-sugar exporting nations (led by Brazil) and ruled the EU sugar-régime and the accompanying ACP-EU Sugar Protocol (whereby a group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries receive preferential access to the European sugar market) illegal. In response to this and to other rulings of the WTO, and owing to internal pressures on the EU sugar regime, the European Commission proposed on 22 June 2005 a radical reform of the EU sugar régime, cutting prices by 39% and eliminating all EU sugar exports. The African, Caribbean, Pacific and Least developed country sugar-exporters reacted with dismay to the EU sugar proposals, arguing for a fairer reform of the EU régime which would foster development and contribute meaningfully to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. On 25 November 2005 the Council of the EU agreed to cut EU sugar prices by 36% as from 2009. It now seems that the U.S. Sugar Program could become the next target for reform.

Small quantities of sugar, especially speciality grades of sugar, reach the market as 'fair trade' commodities; the fair-trade system produces and sells these products with the understanding that a larger-than-usual fraction of the revenue will support small farmers in the developing world. However, whilst the Fairtrade Foundation offers a premium of USD 60.00 per tonne to small farmers for sugar branded as "Fairtrade", governmnent schemes such the U.S. Sugar Program and the ACP Sugar Protocol offer premiums of around USD 400.00 per tonne above world market prices.

See also

Bibliography

External links

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History and culture

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Sugar and hyperactivity

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