Leading health experts from across the globe have united to form ‘Action On Sugar’ – an unprecedented call to tackle and reverse the obesity and diabetes epidemic. Obesity is a major crisis facing the UK and practically every country around the world, and yet there is no coherent structured plan to tackle obesity. This group will initially target the huge and unnecessary amounts of sugar that are currently being added to our food and soft drinks.
Action On Sugar will carry out a public health campaign, to make the public more sugar aware and thus avoid products that are full of hidden sugars. Children are a particularly vulnerable group targeted by industry marketing calorie dense snacks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
The major initial focus of the group will be to adopt a similar model to salt reduction pioneered by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). This model has become one of the most successful nutritional policies in the UK since the Second World War, by setting targets for the food industry to add less salt to all of their products, over a period of time. As this is done slowly, people do not notice the difference in taste.
Salt intake has fallen in the UK by 15% (between 2001-2011) and most products in the supermarkets have been reduced between 20 and 40%, with a minimum reduction of 6,000 strokes and heart attack deaths a year, and a healthcare saving cost of £1.5bn.
A similar programme can be developed to gradually reduce the amount of added sugar with no substitution in food and soft drinks by setting targets for all foods and soft drinks where sugar has been added. Action On Sugar has calculated that a 20 to 30% reduction in sugar added by the food industry which, given a reasonable timeframe (3-5 years) is easily achievable, would result in a reduction in calorie intake of approximately 100kcal/day and more in those people who are particularly prone to obesity.
It’s not just the well-known brands, such as CocaCola which has a staggering 9 teaspoons of added sugar, but flavoured water, sports drinks, yogurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread are just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of hidden sugars.
Additional aims of the group include:
- To educate the public in becoming more sugar aware in terms of understanding the impact of sugar on their health, checking labels when shopping and avoiding products with high levels of sugar.
- To ensure that children are highlighted as a particularly vulnerable group whose health is more at risk from high sugar intakes.
- To ensure clear and comprehensive nutritional labelling of the sugar content of all processed foods.
- At the same time we would conduct a Parliamentary campaign to ensure the government and DH take action, and that, if the food industry do not comply with the sugar targets, they will enact legislation or impose a sugar tax.