Food companies are failing to reduce sugar content says PHE

Food companies are failing to reduce sugar content says PHE

Food companies have cut sugar by only 3% despite the Government’s voluntary target of a 20% reduction in many products by the end of the year, The Times has reported. Between 2015 and last year there was little or no reduction in many food and drink categories, including chocolate and sweets, Public Health England (PHE) says in a report. Sugar levels in puddings, meanwhile, rose by 2%.

The Government’s programme challenged all sectors of the food industry to reduce sugar by 20% by 2020 in the categories of food that contribute most to the sugar intakes of children aged up to 18 years. In May 2018 unsweetened juice and sweetened milk-based drinks were incorporated into the sugar reduction programme, and technical guidelines published.

This latest report presents a detailed assessment of progress made by industry, over the first 3 years of the sugar reduction programme, towards the 20% reduction ambition.

Retailers and manufacturer branded products

The main findings were:

  • overall, there was a 3.0% reduction in the sales weighted average total sugar per 100g in products sold between baseline (2015) and year 3 (2019)
  • there were larger reductions for specific product categories, yogurts and fromage frais down 12.9%, and breakfast cereals down 13.3% compared with baseline
  • there was a small increase in the puddings category

Eating out of home sector

The main findings were:

  • overall, there has been hardly any change in the simple average sugar content from 24.6g per 100g at baseline (2017) to 24.5g per 100g in year 3 (2019)
  • the largest decreases were 17.1% for breakfast cereals, 6.8% for cakes and3.9% for biscuits
  • there was an increase for chocolate confectionery of 10.7%

Anti-obesity campaigners said that the figures showed it was time for statutory regulation of sugar levels in foods, rather than relying on requests to manufacturers. Graham MacGregor, the chairman of Action on Sugar and a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said the voluntary programme was “simply not working”. “Food and drink companies that want to do the right thing are crying out for a level playing field, which can only be achieved by setting mandatory targets for calorie and sugar reduction,” he added.

With PHE set to be abolished in the new year, Professor MacGregor said its successor should “implement comprehensive and compulsory reformulation targets across the whole of the food and drink industry to gradually reduce the amount of sugar and excess calories in food and drink”.

Jo Churchill, the public health minister, said there had been “much needed progress” that would “make it easier for everyone to make healthier choices”, but added: “It’s clear more can be done. Covid-19 has highlighted obesity and how important it is to tackle it. Our recent announcement of the obesity strategy includes world-leading measures such as a TV watershed for advertising food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar, and consulting on how we can introduce a ban online. If more action is needed to support individuals to lead a healthy life, we will go further to help them.”

Link to full report:


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