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First report released on progress by food and drink industries on cutting sugar

The first report on the reduction of sugar by the food and drink industries has shown varying levels of success. (Photograph: Ekaterina Markelova/Shutterstock)

Mon. 28 May 2018


LONDON, UK: Sugar and its harmful effects on the population have been an ongoing focus in England for some time. In 2016, as part of a broader government plan to tackle child obesity, Public Health England (PHE) challenged the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in their products by 20 per cent by 2020. On 22 May, PHE released the first progress report on this challenge, and it showed varying levels of success.

As an initial target, PHE had set a goal of a 5 per cent sugar reduction per 100 g in the first year (August 2016 to August 2017). According to the progress report, across eight of the ten food categories, excluding cakes and morning goods, retailers and manufacturers have achieved a 2 per cent reduction. Additionally, of the top 20 brands, ranked by total sugar sales in the first year, 33 per cent showed a decrease in sugar content, 56 per cent showed no change and 12 per cent showed an increase in sugar content (combined total does not equal 100 owing to rounding).

PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie said, “We have seen some of the food industry make good progress, and they should be commended for this. We also know that further progress is in the pipeline. However, tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular, those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action.”

Unlike food manufacturers, who have achieved their results voluntarily, soft drink manufacturers included in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy saw reductions of 11 per cent of sugar per 100 ml. This is something the British Dental Association (BDA) believes is proof of the power of hard policies over voluntary action.

“The report shows that the food industry is far more willing to respond to sticks than carrots. We need a tough line on reformulation, but also decisive action on advertising to children and buy-one-get-one-free promotions in shops, which evidence shows have a huge impact on purchasing decisions,” said BDA Principal Executive Committee Chair Dr Mick Armstrong.

The next progress report is due in spring 2019.

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