The launch, in London on September 29, was chaired by PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie, together with director of strategy Adrian Masters and the PHE’s deputy director for diet and obesity and its chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone.
Among a number of other proposals to reduce salt, saturated fat and calorie levels, the childhood obesity action plan seeks to reduce the sugar content of products by 20% by 2020, including a 5% reduction in year one.
“Evidence shows that slowly changing the balance of ingredients in everyday products, or making changes to product size, is a successful way of improving diets. This is because the changes are universal and do not rely on individual behaviour change,” said PHE.
Sugar reduction programme
“We have, therefore, launched a broad, structured sugar reduction programme to remove sugar from the products children eat most.
“All sectors of the food and drinks industry are challenged to reduce overall sugar across a range of products that contribute to children’s sugar intakes by at least 20% by 2020, including a 5% reduction in year one.
“This can be achieved through reduction of sugar levels in products, reducing portion size or shifting purchasing towards lower sugar alternatives.”
However, some industry sources have expressed concern about the use of sweeteners to replace sugar, because of unsubstantiated fears from parents about their safety and use in children’s foods.
Others have argued that the use of sweeteners does not encourage a change of palate with respect to sweetness of products and manufacturers preferred a clean-label for products such as yogurt.
The food industry is seeking greater clarity on the process for setting sugar reduction targets.
Sugar in food and production
Meanwhile, the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) – the independent qualifying body for food professionals in the UK – has published an information statement on sugars, which intends to inform debate on the subject of reformulation.
It outlined the role sugars play in food and drink production and provides an evidence-based summary of the key scientific facts around them.
The IFST pointed out that sugars were the basic building blocks of carbohydrates found in nature; they can be found in milk, tree saps and many fruits and vegetables.
“Their use in many foods is inevitable but sugars are currently under extreme scrutiny, taking centre stage within governmental policy-making due to their potential impacts on health and obesity,” the IFST said.