Sugar was reduced by just 2% in the first year of Public Health England's programme ©123RF
Sugar was reduced by just 2% in the first year of Public Health England's programme ©123RF

Laggards on sugar reduction face public reporting

20 November 2018

Companies making little effort to reduce sugar in everyday foods could face further action from the government.

Speaking at Food Matters Live, Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England (PHE), has today told the food industry that PHE will be reporting on the industry’s progress, highlighting where little progress is being made on sugar reduction, which could result in further action being taken by the government.

He said: “Obesity is the pandemic of modern times. Customers are saying they want faster progress from the food industry, and in particular, those businesses that have taken little or no action. We will be publicly reporting on these during 2019.”

A survey by PHE reveals that nine out of 10 people support the government and food industry working together to make everyday food and drinks healthier.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, explored the public’s perception of obesity and showed that 39% of people believe that obesity is the biggest health concern for the UK population, behind cancer and mental health, with 79% believing that obesity is having a negative impact on the NHS.

While respondents largely placed the onus on making healthier food choices on the consumer, they also believe that there is a collective responsibility for the food industry and government to assist with tackling obesity.

Initially launched in 2016 by PHE, the sugar reduction programme has challenged the food industry to reduce sugar by 20% in everyday foods such as cereal, yoghurts and ready meals by 2020, as well as reducing calories in such foods by 2024 in all sectors, including food consumed in restaurants, coffee shops and cafes.

In a progress report in May, PHE said sugar had been reduced by 2% against a 5% target for the first year.

Speaking at the time, Tim Rycroft, director of corporate affairs for the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Sugar reduction has considerable technical challenges; sugar plays a variety of roles beyond sweetness in food including colour, texture and consistency. It is for these reasons that we have long said that the guidelines are ambitious and will not be met across all categories or in the timescale outlined.”

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