Faster and more robust action is needed to consume less sugar, says PHE

Faster and more robust action is needed to consume less sugar, says PHE

The latest report from Public Health England on industry action to reduce sugar levels in products shows mixed progress across a range of food categories and sectors.

The report also finds that marginal progress has been made in reducing sugar in products purchased and consumed in the eating out of home sector, such as cakes and puddings purchased from restaurants or cafes, although calories in these products have declined.

Highlights included:

  • Retailer and manufacturer branded breakfast cereals and yogurts and fromage frais 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, such as milkshakes. These were added to the voluntary programme, in 2018, as they can contribute significantly to children’s sugar and calorie consumption.

Most retailer and manufacturer branded drinks have reduced sugar levels by at least 10% already with pre-packed sweetened milk based drinks reducing sugar by more than a fifth (22%).

The report also highlights the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) with average sugar levels in drinks subject to the levy falling by 44% between 2015 and 2019 for retailers and manufacturers. Overall, sugar consumed through these products has fallen even as sales have increased.

Jo Churchill, Public Health minister, said “more can be done” despite the “much needed progress” on sugar reduction, particularly in products like breakfast cereals, yogurts and ice cream.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “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.”

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