So breaking news yesterday saw that Public Health England (PHE) have released their long awaited report on Sugar. It’s titled “Sugar Reduction: the evidence for action” and includes eight areas of action that PHE feel need to be taken in order to improve health and reduce the UK’s sugar intake.
The 8 steps are as follows:
- Reduce and rebalance the number and type of price promotions
- Significantly reduce opportunities to market and advertise high-sugar food and drink products to children and adults across all media including digital platforms and through sponsorship.
- The setting of a clear definition for high-sugar foods
- Introduction of a broad, structured and transparently monitored programme of gradual sugar reduction in everyday food and drink products, combined with reductions in portion size.
- Introduction of a price increase of a minimum of 10%-20% on high-sugar products through the use of a tax or levy such as on full-sugar soft drinks.
- Adopt, implement and monitor the government buying standards for food and catering services across the public sector.
- Better training in diet and health.
- Public education campaigns and practical steps to help people reduce sugar consumption.
Jamie Oliver and health campaigners were pleased to see the Sugar Tax as a recommended option, but as Alison Tedstone commented herself, it’s not one of the Government’s top priorities (top three in the list are however).
You may remember at the beginning of this year the Government changed the recommendations for sugar intake, recommending that in the UK we have NO MORE than 5% of our calories coming from added sugars. See my previous blog post on how this relates to sugar intake and what ‘free sugars’ actually mean.
However, for the public to meet this 5% sugar intake, it’s actually no easy task. Especially for someone who cooks from scratch less and tends to eat pre-packaged foods. I was asked to speak to ITV news about food labels. You can see a clip of this on the video link below.
The problem is that on our food packets the information on sugar is only given as a figure for TOTAL SUGAR. It doesn’t give information on the amount of FREE SUGARS in a product. A consumer would have to be really savvy to try and use the ingredients list to actually work out which sugars had been added, and therefore constitute the ‘free’ sugars that the government is asking us to reduce! Even then it’s not going to be a completely accurate amount.
Another problem is that, to be universal, food labels only contain calorie information for a typical adult female. This means that the percentages, traffic lights and numbers on the front of a packet are all based on an adult requirement, not a child’s. You can imagine though that the requirements (and indeed the sugar limit) for a child of 4 are much less than those for a 30-year-old adult female!
ITV news asked me to take them through some of their food products and show how much ‘free sugar’ is actually in each product and what this would contribute to a child’s maximum intake. This wasn’t easy and involved me sitting down (with a calculator, mind) and working it out. Is this really practical to be expecting parents to do this? I think not.
The food industry and our Government rightly say that their hands are tied by European Laws, as well as our decision of whether or not to stay in Europe. This is also one of the reasons why Public Health England decided not to include action on food labels in their report.
Regardless, it still leaves parents at a bit of a loss and certainly no more able to consciously try and meet the government’s recommended limit for free sugars.
Here is a link to that Public Health England Sugar Report.
Also see more from ITV New’s story here.