Sugar Awareness Week: Government must get tougher with sugar

30 October 2017 | Healthy living, Health policy

Jenny is Campaign Manager for Action on Sugar and a Registered Nutritionist. This is the first of three posts from her to mark Sugar Awareness Week (of which World Cancer Research Fund is an official partner) – look out for more posts later in the week.

This year’s Sugar Awareness Week gives us all an opportunity to reflect on the government’s recent policy decisions about sugar as well as to highlight actions which still need to be taken.

Increased risks

Why is sugar so important?

In addition to a greater risk of tooth decay, evidence shows that excess consumption of sugar is associated with increased calorie intake and that the consumption of sugary drinks is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Almost 60 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men are above a healthy weight and there’s strong evidence that this increases the risk of developing 11 different types of cancer.

Sugar tax

The sugar tax (or ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’ as it’s officially known), due to be implemented from April next year, has already resulted in significant reductions in sugar in soft drinks.

We now also have a national sugar reduction programme, led by Public Health England (PHE), whereby companies have been given until 2020 to achieve a 20 per cent sugar reduction in the nine food categories which contribute the most sugar to children’s diets.

PHE are also due to launch a calorie reduction programme in the new year – a great opportunity for companies to reduce the energy density of their higher-calorie products, while improving their overall nutritional density.

Responsible retailers

However, Theresa May’s government is yet to demonstrate that it is really serious about protecting the nation’s health – for example, it has shied away from making retailers reduce the number of price promotions that they run on food and drink high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

This Sugar Awareness Week, we’re therefore asking the government to re-visit its childhood obesity plan and urge retailers to sell high-sugar products more responsibly.

It’s time to get tougher with sugar.

There’s more on Sugar Awareness Week plus lots of sugar reduction tips at the Action on Sugar website. Join the conversation on Twitter @WCRF_UK and @Actiononsugar using the hashtag #SugarAwarenessWeek.

Jenny Rosborough | 30 October 2017