SACN report

Industry: SACN report says ‘nothing new’

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

'Nothing new about sugar' in the SACN report, industry leaders say
'Nothing new about sugar' in the SACN report, industry leaders say

Related tags Nutrition

There’s “nothing new about sugar” in the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition's (SACN’s) report on carbohydrates, but more needs to be done to increase fibre intake, food and drink manufacturing leaders have said.

Consumers should be in no doubt that sugars can be enjoyed as part of a varied diet, Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said following the publication of the final report today​ (July17).

“The report confirms what we already know – that sugars are a contributing factor to tooth decay and if consumed in excess, can lead to weight gain,” ​he added. “SACN recommends the reduction of ‘free sugars’ in the diet as one way of lowering energy intake to help reduce obesity.”

Industry had already been working hard to lower calories in food and drink, including reducing sugars and offering more portions sizes, Wright said.

The publication of the final report, which recommended overall energy intake from free-sugars be halved to 5%, should relegate sensationalist comments from non-governmental organisations and other groups about sugar to the past, he added.

‘Demonising one ingredient’

SACN report in brief:

  • Free sugar intake should account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake
  • The term ‘free sugars’ should replace ‘non-milk extrinsic sugars
  • The consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks should be reduced by adults and children
  • Brits need to increase fibre intake

“Demonising any one ingredient in the obesity debate isn’t helpful.”

Now it was time government and industry devised a strategy to increase fibre intake among Brits, he added.

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington conceded that some people did need to reduce their sugar intake and eat a more balanced diet. But, overall, SACN’s recommendations made little sense and would confuse people, he claimed.

Consumers had been given enough choices by industry to help reduce their consumption of sugar and have a balanced diet, Partington said.

“Manufacturers have reduced sugar intake from all soft drinks by more than 8% since 2012. Our ongoing work will do more to reduce sugar intake than the setting of unrealistic targets that do not consider overall diet and lifestyle.”

Sugar firm AB Sugar agreed that the recommendations contributed to the conflicting advice given to consumers about what to eat.

While the organisation welcomed information that would inform policy-makers on helping people eat a better diet, it questioned the report’s focus on sugar.

‘Will reduce obesity levels’

AB Sugar communications manager Sharon Fisher said: “Given the scientific focus of the report was dietary carbohydrates and health outcomes in the round, we question whether the dietary recommendations, which focus on one type of ingredients alone – sugars – will reduce obesity levels.”

It had been known for a number of years that the nation had been consuming too much sugar, said BDA chairman Dr Fiona McCullough.

“The time is now right to address this issue head on and improve the nation’s health in both the long- and short-term,” ​she added.

“The experts have presented credible evidence and the ball is now firmly in the government’s court to seize this opportunity to improve the nation’s health.”

Meanwhile, Action on Sugar chairman Professor Ian MacGregor, was confident SACN’s recommendations, if implemented, would prevent obesity and type two diabetes.

“The food and drink industry does not want to cause any more harm to its consumers; they are waiting to be told what to do and it is essential that they are given a level playing field so that they are all working towards the same goal.

“This policy must therefore be enforced by a strong independent agency.”

What they said about the SACN report:

British Nutrtion Foundation

The British Nutrition Foundation welcomes the publication of the comprehensive review on Carbohydrates and Health by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, a committee of independent experts that advises the government on nutrition issues.

The report concludes that scientific evidence linking carbohydrates with health outcomes, including oral health, heart disease, heart disease and colorectal cancer, has strengthened over recent years.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright:

“To meet the stretching dietary goals that SACN recommends will mean changes to the way people eat. Published diet modelling3​ shows that people can reduce free sugars and boost fibre in the diet in a number of ways while still fitting in the foods and drink they enjoy.  

“We hope SACN’s key recommendations will be translated into meaningful and practical diet and lifestyle messages which are consistently used by everyone with a voice in the health debate.”

Kawther Hashem, Nutritionist at Action on Sugar:

“SACN recommends we drink less sugary drinks. Many popular sugary drinks cannot be included within a healthy diet plan - as they can contain anywhere between 30g and 50g of sugars per can or bottle – your entire 5% recommendation (30g). Soft drinks companies must reformulate their sugary drinks immediately if they want to be consumed as an occasional ‘treat’ within a healthy diet.”

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington:

“The fact is there is no difference between the sugar in soft drinks and the sugar in other types of food and drink. It is baffling that soft drinks have been singled out and the industry’s work to reduce the nation’s sugar intake ignored.”

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