Barbara Gallani is director of regulatory affairs, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
She said people needed to follow evidence and science when forming opinions about sugar’s impact on obesity. They also called on people to recognise the work industry has been doing for years to improve products.
She chose to respond to two issues addressed in a number of questions.
On tax, she said: “Additional taxes placed on food have not proven to deliver positive health impacts in other jurisdictions; rather, they are regressive and have potential for unintended consequences.
“Most foods and drink are already taxed at the standard VAT rate of 20%. Any additional taxation of food or specific nutrients will hit the poorest families hardest at a time when they can least afford it. Most successful approaches to tackling complex lifestyle issues, such as obesity, are those based on empowering healthy choices rather than through discriminatory taxes.”
On whether or not obesity was a multifactorial condition requiring a multifactorial response and sugars being only one piece of the puzzle, she said: “Eating or drinking too many calories, from whatever food source, and not matching it with enough exercise will lead to weight gain. Sugar is a source of calories alongside fats, proteins and alcohol – but on its own it is not a cause of obesity. The key to health is a balanced and varied diet and not just the individual nutrients within it.
“Under the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal, many FDF members are working to help reduce calorie intakes to help tackle obesity, adapting their product ranges to contain fewer calories through recipe reformulation, new product development and changes to portion sizes. In some cases, companies are able to reduce sugars in recipes in order to achieve an overall calorie reduction and offer individuals low sugar options that remain of high quality and keep the desired taste. However, it should be remembered a reduction of sugars in food will not always result in a reduction in calories.
“Calorie reduction is only part of the solution though, and these efforts are further supported by FDF member companies’ initiatives to encourage physical activity and provide information about healthy lifestyles. The food industry is working with others to drive behavioural change to help reduce calorie consumption across the population, as well as tackling physical inactivity. Many FDF members support programmes aimed at encouraging physical activity within local communities; while others offer workplace wellbeing schemes to improve the health of their employees.”