20% Sugar Reduction is “Impossible”, Says UK Food and Drink Trade Body

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23 Mar 2017 --- An executive of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation has warned how the government’s 20% sugar reduction drive - a program to seriously reduce the amount of sugar across British food and beverages - is not “technically” possible and, on top of that, will not be accepted by consumers. 

The Sugar Reduction Program by Public Health England is part of the government’s push to cut obesity rates and associated health problems. Food giants, including the likes of Nestle, Mars, Pepsico and Kellogg’s, have previously been told to decrease sugar content by 20% in products aimed at children. These include food like breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, yogurts, ice cream, puddings, and chocolate and sweet confectionery. 

“There is no question that obesity levels in the UK are unacceptably high. Physical inactivity is a factor, but for many the problem overwhelmingly is with excess calories in the diet. With many of these calories coming from sugars, we have been supporting the Government as it develops its highly ambitious sugar reduction drive,” says Tim Rycroft, Corporate Affairs Director at the Food and Drink Federation.

“We know our products have a special place in people's lives and that we must keep our customers at the heart of this work.”

“We have said consistently that a 20% sugar reduction by 2020 across all foods covered won't be technically possible or acceptable to UK consumers. Instead, we believe the success of this work will hinge on the level of sustained engagement coming from the entire food industry. That's why the involvement of all players – manufacturers, retailers and out of home operators – is so crucial to securing public support for the level of change we're being asked to make.”

He adds how “responsible companies” will work Public Health England to lower sugars in recipes and, where that isn't technically possible or acceptable to consumers, to lower portion sizes and encourage switching to lower-sugars alternatives.

“We all have a role to play in giving this process the best chance of success. We believe that Government working in collaboration with trade bodies, companies, research bodies and others can help enable solutions to help companies to deliver under the program.
 
“This could include increased funding for research or additional open access technical guidance for small to medium sized companies, building on the material which FDF launched last summer. We were pleased to see the revision of the R&D tax credits system, something we had asked government for and we support, announced in this year's Budget.”

However, the Obesity Health Alliance in the UK has hit back at Rycroft’s claims that meeting the 20% reduction target is not possible - and if industry cannot meet the target, then government should step in to ensure a change. 

In a statement, it says how children of all ages are eating far too much sugar, the key driver for the dangerously high levels of overweight and obesity in children in the UK. 

“Reducing the sugar hidden in everyday foods will help us all have a healthier diet. And it is widely supported by the public.”

“The Government has set a very achievable goal to the food and drink industry of reducing sugar from the foods frequently eaten by children by 20% in five years. With one in three children overweight or obese we can’t afford to lower our sights.”

“By rising to this opportunity industry could help make a real difference in improving the health of our children and families. The Government has been clear that if sufficient progress is not made by industry than other levers will be used and we will hold them to that.”

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