Anyone else struggling through Dry January? Assuming I haven’t fallen off the wagon, it’ll be three weeks off the booze and counting by the time you read this.

Getting bored of alcohol-free beer, I switched this week to Elderflower Sparkling Pressé instead. But as I was quaffing and feeling virtuous, I happened to look at the ingredients on the label. There, I found one of those misdirection tables of nutritional information. The bottle, I read, contained 7.4g of sugar. Or rather, as I read on, that was how much 100ml contained. The full 750 ml bottle, I worked out, had 55.5g of sugar. Or to put it another way, 14 teaspoons of sugar. No wonder the drink was tasting so good!

If you’re into nutrition, you’re probably way ahead of me here, but that discovery let me down a bit of a rabbit hole exploring just how much sugar is contained in what we eat and drink. Once you start reading round, it’s eye-opening: the NHS recommended daily intake of sugar is around seven teaspoons: according to one account, we consume twenty-two.

A spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down, but it also compels us to consume much more than we should. Back in the late 1960s, scientists famously conducted an experiment feeding cereal Froot Loops to rats: their biological brakes to control eating were overridden by their sugar craving: within a few weeks, the rats were obese.

In the 1970s, scientists developed high-fructose corn syrup, which is basically sugar in liquid form: easier to add into food and drink and swallowed with the consumer barely noticing it. In 2018, the government took baby steps in introducing a sugar tax: soft drinks manufacturers pay a levy of 18p a litre for drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, like my Elderflower Presse (this rises to 24p over 8g).

This has led to a small change in behaviour: consumption of sugar from soft drinks fell by 10 per cent in the first year. But campaigners want legislation to go much further.

Last year, restaurateur Henry Dimbleby produced a National Food Strategy for the government. It recommended a £3billion sugar and salt tax – charging £3 a kilo on sugar sold wholesale (and £6/kilo for salt) with the money used to expand free school meals for an extra million children.

Elderflower pressés, however, are only one small part of the problem. For drinkers counting down the days to February, it is worth knowing that alcoholic drinks are currently exempt from sugar taxes, despite the rise of pre-mixed ‘gin in a tin’ products stuffed with sugar – one Tesco product has 36g of sugar in a 250ml bottle, for example.