New PHE Data on Efforts to Reduce Sugar in Food and Drink Products Consumed by Children

Priscilla Lynch 

October 12, 2020

Public Health England (PHE) has published its third annual report on industry action to reduce sugar levels in products that contribute most to children’s sugar intakes.

In 2016, the food and hospitality industry was challenged by government to reduce sugar by 20 per cent in foods that contribute most to children’s sugar consumption.

The latest report shows mixed progress across a range of food categories and sectors:

  • 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 per cent – between the baseline (2015) and year 3 (2019).

  • Sugar levels in chocolate and sweet confectionery are relatively unchanged, whereas product sales have increased, growing by 16 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, between 2015 and 2019.

  • Average overall sugar reduction across all food categories stands at 3 per cent.

The latest 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.

Sugar reduction progress is reported by PHE for the first time for unsweetened juices including smoothies and sweetened milk-based drinks such as milkshakes. Most retailer and manufacturer branded drinks have reduced sugar levels by at least 10 per cent already (since 2018) 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 with average sugar levels in drinks subject to the levy falling by 44 per cent between 2015 and 2019 for retailers and manufacturers.

However, responding to the findings, Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Policy and Campaigns of Diabetes UU, said: “This report highlights the need for more decisive action on sugar reduction as, clearly, the Government's voluntary approach is not working."

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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