1. Between September 1979 and July 1981, 405 northern-English children, initially aged 11–12 years, each recorded all food and drink consumed on five occasions on each of three consecutive days. Sugars and nutrient intakes were calculated using food tables.
2. The average total sugars intake was 118 g/d or 21% of the energy in take and 43% of the carbohydrate intake; these percentages were similar for both sexes, all social class groups and surveys.
3. Sugars were found to be derived from a variety of food sources with confectionery being the single largest source.
4. Sugars were fairly evenly consumed over the average day with a high amount in foods eaten between meals. Snacks accounted for 65% of the sugars intake but only 46% of the energy intake.
5. Sugars intake and snacking therefore seem to have been major components of the eating habits of these children. If dietary changes towards lower sugars intakes are to be achieved a vigorous, informed health education campaign is necessary together with effective labelling of manufactured foods, the development of new products and the modification of some existing ones.