Food firms back Change4Life sugar reduction drive

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Swapping a higher-sugar breakfast cereal for a lower sugar variant is equal to 2.5 fewer cubes of sugar per bowl
Swapping a higher-sugar breakfast cereal for a lower sugar variant is equal to 2.5 fewer cubes of sugar per bowl
Food manufacturers have pledged their support to a new Change4Life campaign that encourages parents to tackle childhood obesity by swapping sugary foods with healthier alternatives.

Nestlé, Soreen and Yoplait are among that companies that will display a ‘Good Choice’ thumbs-up badge on some of their products, to help families find lower sugar options. Own-label products in Asda, Aldi, Londis and Budgens stores will also carry the badge.

As part of the ‘Make a swap when you next shop’ initiative, parents are being asked to make simple everyday swaps on products such as yogurts, drinks and breakfast cereals, to reduce children’s sugar intake.

Examples include swapping a higher-sugar yoghurt (eg, a split-pot) for a lower sugar one, to halve intake from six cubes of sugar to three; a sugary juice drink for a no-added sugar juice drink, to cut back from two cubes to half a cube; and a higher-sugar breakfast cereal (eg, a frosted or chocolate cereal) for a lower sugar cereal, to cut back from three cubes to half a cube per bowl.

Parents are also encouraged to download the free Food Scanner app and visit the Change4Life website​, which offers sugar swap and menu ideas.

Maximum recommended sugar intake

The campaign followed National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data, published by Public Health England (PHE) last April, which found ​UK children exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reached their 10th birthday.

While children’s sugar intakes had declined slightly in recent years, they were still consuming around eight excess sugar cubes a day, equivalent to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes a year, the NDNS found.

While some foods and drinks remain high in sugar, many companies have reformulated products such as yoghurts, breakfast cereals and juice drinks, meaning these swaps are a good place for families to start, PHE said.

Making these swaps every day could remove around 2,500 sugar cubes a year from a child’s diet, but swapping chocolate, puddings, sweets, cakes and pastries for healthier options – such as malt loaf, sugar-free jellies, lower-sugar custards and rice puddings – would reduce their intake even more, it added.

“Children are consuming too much sugar, but parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years,”​ said PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone.

“To make this easier for busy families, Change4Life is offering a straightforward solution – by making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.”

The Good Choice badge

Nestlé Shredded Wheat, Nestlé Low Sugar Oat Cheerios, Yoplait Petits Filous and Soreen (malt loaf) are some of the products that will display the Good Choice badge online, in-store and throughout their advertising, to help parents find healthier options.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the very successful Change4Life campaign,”​ said Toby Baker, marketing director for the UK and Australia at Nestlé Cereals.

“The Good Choice badge builds on a number of changes we’ve already made to educate consumers, including the introduction of clear portion guidance that differentiates between adult and child portions as well as colour-coded front of pack labelling.

“Compared with 2003 levels, Nestlé breakfast cereals sold in 2017 contained 508 million fewer teaspoons of sugar and, since 2010, average sugar content has been reduced by 15%.”

In May 2018, PHE published progress against the first-year sugar reduction ambition of 5%, which showed an average 2% reduction in sugar across categories for retailers and manufacturers.

While breakfast cereals and yoghurts and fromage frais were among the categories meeting or exceeding the 5% ambition, some products in these categories were still high in sugar, PHE said.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said its members were now selling 135,000t of sugar less than in 2013 – the equivalent of 34bn teaspoons.

“The industry is fully engaged in PHE’s Sugar Reduction programme, and there is plenty more work in the pipeline,”​ said Kate Halliwell, FDF head of UK diet and health policy.

“What is concerning is that many of the alternatives being suggested by PHE as part of their Change4Life programme are currently under threat of tighter advertising restrictions.

“Consumer awareness of lower-sugar options will be considerably impacted if these products cannot be advertised.”

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