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Public Health England publishes guidelines on reducing sugar in food

FBR Staff Writer Published 31 March 2017

Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the UK's Department of Health, has published new guidelines designed to reduce the amount of sugar in nine food product categories.

The public health body is challenging manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products by 5% by August this year and by 20% over the next four years.

The technical guidelines apply to breakfast cereals, biscuits, confectionary, cakes and ice creams in a move to curb obesity problems among children, in particular.

If successfully implemented, the sugar reduction programme is to take off 200,000 tonnes of sugar from the UK food products each year by 2020, said PHE.

In this regard, it has suggested three approaches the UK food sector could take to implement the measures.

The first approach, it says is to reformulate products with lowered sugar content, while the second is to cut down the portion size and/or the number of calories contained in single-serve products.

Third approach according to PHE is to tilt customer’s choice towards buying lower or zero-sugar content products.

PHE CEO Duncan Selbie said: “The UK has one of the most innovative food sectors in the world and it’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure it remains a dynamic and thriving sector of our economy.

“The scale of our ambition to reduce sugar is unrivalled anywhere in the world, which means the UK food industry has a unique opportunity to innovate and show the rest of the world how it can be done. I believe reducing sugar in the nation’s diet will be good for health and ultimately good for UK food business.”

According to PHE, the execution by food companies in the sugar reduction programme will be judged by measuring the net sugar content removed from important food categories. It wants the food industry to go a little ahead and move faster in reducing sugar to result in better health outcomes while meeting the government’s challenge.

The new sugar reduction guidelines for the UK food sector have been welcomed by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) and British Dietetic Association (BDA).

BNF director general professor Judy Buttriss said: “The new government recommendation to reduce our intake of free sugars to less than 5% of food energy is very challenging and action across all sectors, including out of home food outlets, is going to be key to any success.”

Both the organizations though want the government to do much more than it to solve the problem of obesity in children and adults.

Image: UK’s PHE wants food companies to implement 20% sugar reduction by 2020. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.