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PHE publishes third industry progress report on reducing sugar

8th Oct 2020 - 08:38
Public Health England (PHE) has published its third annual report on industry action to reduce sugar level consumption in an attempt to tackle obesity in the UK.

In 2016 hospitality and the food industry were challenged by the Government to reduce sugar by 20% in foods that contribute most to children’s sugar consumption, as part of efforts to tackle obesity.

The third annual report shows mixed progress across the range of food categories and sectors:

  • Retailer and manufacturer branded breakfast cereals and yogurts have seen some of the biggest falls in sales weighted average sugar – around 13% – between the baseline (2015) and year 3 (2019).
  • Sugar levels in chocolate and sweet confectionery are relatively unchanged, while product sales have increased, growing 16% and 7% respectively between 2015 and 2019.
  • Average overall sugar reduction across all food categories stands at 3%.
  • Sugar reduction progress is reported by PHE for the first time for unsweetened juices including smoothies and sweetened milk based drinks.

Public Health Minister Jo Churchill, said: “On sugar reduction, particularly in products like breakfast cereals, yogurts and ice cream, we have achieved some much needed progress. This will make it easier for everyone to make healthier choices, but it’s clear more can be done.

“COVID-19 has highlighted obesity and how important it is to tackle it. Our recent announcement of the obesity strategy includes world-leading measures, such as a TV watershed for advertising food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar, and consulting on how we can introduce a ban online. If more action is needed to support individuals to lead a healthy life, we will go further to help them.”

Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain for both adults and children. It is estimated that two thirds of UK adults are either overweight or obese and as many as one in three children are overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, added: “We’ve continued to see some progress in reducing sugar in a number of everyday food and drink products and this shows that success is possible through reformulation.

“Yet, overall progress remains too slow. Faster and more robust action is needed to help us consume less sugar, which will help us become healthier and lower the economic burden of obesity and preventable pressure on the NHS.”

Tackling obesity is an ‘urgent’ national priority with growing evidence suggesting being heavily overweight can increase people’s risk of serious illness from Covid-19. The NHS spends an estimated £6.1 billion treating obesity related illnesses every year.

PHE will continue to advise the Government on ways to address excess sugar consumption. 

Written by
Edward Waddell