U.K. guidelines seek to reduce sugar 20% by 2020

by Ron Sterk
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Cereal, yogurt, ice cream
The U.K. guidelines seek to cut sugar in such products as breakfast cereals, yogurts and ice creams.

LONDON — The government’s Public Health England (PHE) on March 30 published “Sugar Reduction: Achieving the 20%,” which sets voluntary technical guidelines to cut sugar in nine major food categories by 5% by August 2017 and by 20% by 2020 in an effort to reduce obesity in children up to 18 years of age.

Alison Tedstone, Public Health England
Alison Tedstone, Ph.D., PHE chief nutritionist

“If businesses achieve these guidelines, 200,000 tonnes of sugar could be removed from the U.K. market per year by 2020,” said Alison Tedstone, Ph.D., PHE chief nutritionist.

The nine categories include breakfast cereals, yogurts, biscuits, cakes, morning goods (such as croissants), puddings, ice creams (including lollies and sorbets), confectionery (chocolate and sweet) and sweet spreads (including sub-categories of chocolate spread, peanut butter, fruit spreads and dessert toppings and sauces).

All types of caloric sweeteners are included except naturally occurring milk sugars in yogurt and some sugars in plain whole dried fruit in breakfast cereals, the report said. Sugar-free sweets and chewing gum were excluded.

Beverages were not included as one of the food categories targeted by PHE to reduce sugar because the U.K. already has plans to implement a tax on sweetened beverages in April 2018.

Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood
Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood

“This government believes in taking a common-sense approach to improving public health and that includes changing the addictive relationship our children have with sugar,” said Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood. “Many companies have already taken impressive steps to rise to this challenge but it’s important that everyone steps up. We should seize this unique opportunity to be global leaders in food innovation.”

The PHE guidelines are based on more than six months of meetings with the food industry and public health non-government organizations, including more than 40 meetings with food suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and the “eating out of the home sector” that included fast food, coffee shops, family restaurants, entertainment venues and pub chains.

The report said the food industry could take three approaches to reducing sugar: reformulate products to contain lower sugar levels; reduce portion sizes and/or the calories in single-serve products; or shift consumer purchasing toward lower or no added sugar products.

Duncan Selbie, Public Health England
Duncan Selbie, c.e.o. of PHE

“The scale of our ambition to reduce sugar is unrivaled anywhere in the world, which means the U.K. food industry has a unique opportunity to innovate and show the rest of the world how it can be done,” said Duncan Selbie, chief executive officer of PHE. “I believe reducing sugar in the nation’s diet will be good for health and ultimately good for U.K. food business.”

Sugar reduction is part of a wider PHE food reformulation program that includes salt reduction. PHE will begin work on calorie reduction in food categories not covered by the sugar reduction program later in 2017. 
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