Published on 5 April 2017

Plans to cut up to 20% of sugar content from processed foods detailed in Government paper.

The new guidelines for the food industry to lower the amount of sugar in food products has been published.

The sugar reduction programme aims to reduce a fifth of sugar – up to 20% - from existing foods, which could see around 200,000 tonnes of sugar removed each year from the UK market by 2020.

Public Health England (PHE) has published their guidelines setting out approaches the food industry could adopt to cut how much sugar children eat in everyday foods that contribute the most to intakes.

The impact of reducing sugar in food items could improve the health of young people in the future and reduce their risk of becoming obese and developing related health conditions including type 2 diabetes.

The guidelines include the recommended sugar limits for nine food groups including biscuits, breakfast cereals and yogurt. Also published is the 2015 baseline.

The nine food categories included are: breakfast cereals, yogurts, biscuits, cakes, breakfast foods like croissants, puddings, ice creams, lollies and sorbets, confectionery (chocolate and sweets) and sweet spreads.

Sub-categories have been introduced due to the wide range of different products included in the sweet spreads category, such as chocolate spread, peanut butter, dessert toppings and sauces and fruit spreads.

Encouraging the industry to innovate to lower children’s sugar intakes means the programme will be good for health and good for business.

The planned sugar reduction was one of the main commitments in the Government’s Childhood obesity: a plan for action, with a challenge set to reduce sugar by 5% by August 2017 and overall by 20% by 2020.

Among recommendations to food producers to meet the sugar reduction targets include reformulating products to lower the amount of sugar; reducing portion sizes, and/or the number of calories in single-serve products; and taking steps to encourage people to buy products that are lower in sugar, or sugar free.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said: “The UK has one of the most innovative food sectors in the world and it’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure it remains a dynamic and thriving sector of our economy. The scale of our ambition to reduce sugar is unrivalled anywhere in the world, which means the UK food industry has a unique opportunity to innovate and show the rest of the world how it can be done. I believe reducing sugar in the nation’s diet will be good for health and ultimately good for UK food business.

“We can’t duck the fact a third of children are leaving primary school overweight or obese and obesity generally is having a profound effect, not just on the costs for the health service, but on the overall health of the nation. Our economy is affected as obesity can lead to long term health problems that result in time off work.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Overweight and obese children are likely to carry this health problem into adulthood, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Levels of obesity are higher in children from deprived backgrounds. Tackling the amount of sugar we eat is not just a healthy thing to do, but an issue of inequality for many families. If businesses achieve these guidelines, 200,000 tonnes of sugar could be removed from the UK market per year by 2020.”

Nicola Blackwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation, said: “This Government believes in taking a common-sense approach to improving public health and that includes changing the addictive relationship our children have with sugar.

“Many companies have already taken impressive steps to rise to this challenge but it’s important that everyone steps up. We should seize this unique opportunity to be global leaders in food innovation.”

The PHE guidelines were produced following more than six months of meetings with the food industry and public health groups.

Read the Public Health England sugar reduction guidelines here
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