Food - CookingVotes are in and the British public have unanimously said we are most likely to reach for the red bottle at our barbecues this summer.

Facing fierce opposition from other saucy summer stalwart’s, ketchup put the squeeze on the competition to be crowned king of condiments, collecting more than a third (34%) of votes.

The results of the poll, carried out on the British Dental Health Foundation, saw other public favourites beaten to the top table; BBQ (21%), mayonnaise (20%), chilli (13%), mustard (8%) and brown sauce (4%).

Although tasty, these results may not be great news for the nation’s teeth, with well-known ketchup brands such as Heinz being made up of more than a fifth sugar1, a major cause of tooth decay.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, commented, “The British summer is a wonderful and unique time we all relish, and in the few days that the rain clouds clear a barbecue is undoubtedly a big part of this, some of us don’t even wait until the umbrellas are down.

“What is unavoidable though is the fact that a lot of our summer favourites are surprisingly high in sugar which, from the point of view of dental health, could mean big problems for our teeth.

“Although we are all well aware of the levels of sugar in most things we consume in the summer, such as sweet alcoholic drinks and ice cream, we are likely to overlook things such as sauces when it comes to sugar intake. Amazingly, some sauces can have even higher levels of sugar than soft drinks and therefore be more harmful to our teeth.

“Sauces, such as ketchup, have an added impact as they are sticky and can cling to our teeth, and as they are acidic this can contribute to further erosion if consumed too frequently and the teeth are not being looked after as well as they should.”

Tooth decay happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. This forms the acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. After this happens many times, the tooth enamel may break down, forming a hole or ‘cavity’. Tooth decay almost always leads to fillings and can even lead to teeth having to be removed.

Early tooth decay can have no obvious symptoms, but your dental team may be able to spot a cavity in its early stages when they examine your teeth. This is why you should visit your dental team regularly, as small cavities are much easier to treat than advanced decay.

Dr Carter continued: “By no means should we stop indulging in our summer favourites but it is important that we are aware of what is in them so we can make an informed decision. Remember, it is how often we have sugary foods and drinks that cause the problem so it is important that we try and reduce the frequency of consumption.

“My advice to you all this summer is to drink plenty of water, especially directly after eating. Water neutralises the effects of acidic and sugary foods and also removes food particles left behind on and between the teeth. This also has the added effect of helping you to stay hydrated. Some products even offer low sugar varieties, which may be a better option.

“You could also chew sugar-free gum after eating which makes your mouth produce more saliva, this helps to cancel out the acid in your mouth. It has been proven that using sugar-free chewing gum after meals can prevent tooth decay. However, it is important to use only sugar-free gum, as ordinary chewing gum contains sugar and therefore may damage your teeth.”


1. British Dental Health Foundation (2015) Your Say Survey Question, ‘When enjoying a BBQ this summer, which sauce would you prefer to accompany your food?’ Sample 250.

Sauce Vote Sugar (per 100g)
BBQ 21% Heinz 28.9g
Brown 4% HP 23.1g
Chilli 13% Blue Dragon sweet Chilli 43.2g
Mayonnaise 20% Hellman’s 1.5g
Mustard 8% Colman’s English 13g
Tomato 34% Heinz 22.8g

Oral Health Foundation

The Oral Health Foundation is a charity that works to improve oral health by providing education, advice, and support to millions of people every year, changing lives for the better. Our mission is to support others in achieving a healthier life through better oral health. Our vision is to live in a world where everybody has a healthy mouth and is free of dental disease. Poor oral health can have a harmful and devastating effect on a person’s life – both for their physical health and mental wellbeing. We are determined to help more people achieve good oral health and have a better quality of life. Sadly, oral disease remains common, across the life course. We are taking the challenge to reduce the harm caused by poor oral health and the responsibility to create a healthier future for everybody. We do this because we believe that everybody deserves to have good oral health. To make sure this happens, by 2024, we will:

    • Work towards decreasing the prevalence of oral disease across communities.
    • Increase the number of people accessing our help and information services.
    • Diversify our range of resources to reach more communities.
    • Successfully campaign for policies which help people achieve healthier lives.
    • Generate new and nurture existing income streams that enable us to deliver our charitable objectives.

We are going to achieve success by:

    • Running awareness campaigns like National Smile Month and Mouth Cancer Action Month.
    • Giving anybody who needs it direct support through our Dental Helpline.
    • Influencing policy on subjects like dental access, sugar, and tobacco.
    • Providing consumer advice on oral health care products and working alongside manufacturers to make sure products do what they claim to do.
    • Creating resources and information that communicates positive oral health messages.
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