It unveiled its recommendations ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Childhood Obesity Plan scheduled for early 2016 and today’s Health Select Committee report into childhood obesity and parliamentary sugar tax debate.
Topping the recommendations were a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks and confectionery, stricter marketing regulations on unhealthy products and reformulation.
Action on Sugar’s chair Professor Graham MacGregor said Cameron had a “unique opportunity” to produce a coherent, structured and evidence-based plan to tackle obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“These conditions are preventable if the food environment is changed,” he claimed. “Current policies are ineffective and we now require policies that work.”
Obesity and diabetes costs the NHS £10bn a year, a cost which is likely to bankrupt it, Action on Sugar claimed.
As well as funding an independent agency for food industry regulation, the government should support stricter rules on marketing and promotions of ‘unhealthy’ products, Action on Sugar claimed.
“Parents and children are currently drowning in a world full of aggressively marketed and promoted sugary foods and drinks,” Kawther Hashem, nutritionist and researcher at Action on Sugar said.
Action on Sugar's six-point plan
- 50% reduction in sugar content and 20% reduction in fat by 2020
- Ban on unhealthy food and drink promotions
- Ban on marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents
- 20% duty on all sugar-sweetened soft drinks and confectionery
- All public sector must meet guidelines
- Colour-coded labelling
“It is high time the government took responsibility for the health of the nation and set sugar reduction targets and stricter rules on all forms of marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods and drinks.”
By helping people meet the new sugar recommendations (30g/seven tsp for adults and 19g/five tsp for children) within 10 years, individual’s quality of life could be improved and the NHS could be saved, Hashem added.
The publication of Action on Sugar’s Obesity Plan, which has since been updated following the recent scientific review by Public Health England (PHE) on how best to reduce sugar, coincides with the launch of Jamie Oliver’s Obesity Plan, soon to be published, which Action on Sugar fully endorses.
Action on Sugar also warned the government of the devastating effect it would have should the food industry set up an independent agency to implement, monitor and regulate the industry – comparing it to the “scandalous” running of the self-regulating tobacco industry.
The Department of Health, with the Responsibility Deal, had failed both in its salt and calorie reduction policies, because it allowed the food and drink industry to govern itself, it claimed.
Meanwhile, the food and drink industry slammed a sugar tax and the Health Select Committee report as a public relations stunt.
The Food and Drink Federation also released a poll revealing the majority of consumers would not support a sugar tax.