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Chocolate bars and cakes could shrink under new sugar guidelines

PHE publishes guidelines for food industry on reducing sugar in food

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 31 March 2017

Public Health England (PHE) has published the technical guidelines setting out the approaches the food industry can take to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through the foods that contribute the most to intakes.

One of the main commitments in the Government’s Childhood obesity: a plan for action was to reduce the amount of sugar contained in food by 5% by August 2017 and 20% by 2020. This could see 200,000 tonnes of sugar removed from the UK market per year by 2020.

The guidelines recommend sugar limits for nine food groups, these are: breakfast cereals; yogurts; biscuits; cakes; morning goods like croissants; puddings; ice creams, lollies and sorbets; confectionery (chocolate and sweet); and sweet spreads, which is sub-categorised into, chocolate spread, peanut butter, dessert toppings and sauces, fruit spreads.

The guidelines suggest three approaches industry could take to lower the amount of sugar consumed by people who eat them: reformulating products to lower the levels of sugar present; reducing the portion size, and/or the number of calories in single-serve products; and shifting consumer purchasing towards lower or no added sugar products.

Public Health England will judge the success of the sugar reduction programme by measuring the net amount of sugar removed from key food categories.

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.”

Public Health England’s chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone 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.”

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