Collection

Sugar, salt and calorie reduction and reformulation

These documents explain how OHID is approaching reduction and food and drink reformulation as part of the government’s obesity strategy.

All parts of the reduction and reformulation programme transferred from Public Health England (PHE) to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) on 1 October 2021.

OHID now leads on the reduction and reformulation programme and continues to engage with all sectors of the food and drinks industry (retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, takeaway and delivery) to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and calories in the food and drink that contribute to the intakes of children and adults.

Childhood obesity plan

Sugar reduction

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in its 2015 report, Carbohydrates and health, evaluated the evidence on sugar intakes and health. It concluded that reducing the intake of sugar would lower the risk of consuming excess calories and therefore, gaining weight, as well as benefitting dental health. It advised that the recommendations for sugar intake be lowered to no more than 5% of daily energy intake, a halving of the previous recommendation and substantially lower than sugar intakes.

In October 2015, PHE published Sugar reduction: the evidence for action, which reviewed the evidence on possible interventions to reduce sugar intakes. It recommended including the introduction of a structured and transparently monitored sugar reduction programme as well as placing restrictions on advertising and promotions, and the imposition of a tax or levy on, high sugar food and drink.

The sugar reduction programme, announced in the government’s obesity plan in 2016, challenged all sectors of the food industry to reduce sugar in the foods that contribute most to the intakes of children up to 18 years of age, by 20% by 2020. Guidelines for industry were published in 2017.

In 2018, juices and milk-based drinks were added to the programme and challenged industry to reduce sugar by 5% and 20%, respectively, by mid-2021. Guidelines for industry were published in 2018.

There is some overlap between the foods and drinks included in the sugar and salt reduction programmes. There is no overlap between the calorie reduction and sugar reduction programmes.

Drinks in scope of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) are included as part of the monitoring of the sugar reduction programme on behalf of HM Treasury.

Calorie reduction

The calorie reduction programme challenges retailers and manufacturers to reduce calories by up to 10%, and the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector to reduce calories by up to 20%, by 2024.

The programme focuses on everyday savoury foods and meals, which means there is no overlap with the foods included in the sugar reduction programme. There is some overlap between the foods included in the calorie reduction and salt reduction programmes.

Salt reduction

The salt reduction programme challenges all sectors of the food industry to reduce the salt content in foods across more than 100 food groups that contribute most to people’s salt intakes. Targets have been set and regularly revised since 2006. New targets were published in 2020 to be achieved by 2024.

There is some overlap between the foods and drinks included in the salt and sugar reduction programmes, and between the foods included in the salt and calorie reduction programmes.

Commercial baby food for infants under 36 months

Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s set out the government’s ambition to improve the nutrient content of commercially available baby foods and drinks, and committed to publishing nutritional guidelines.

Reduction and reformulation updates

Published 30 March 2017
Last updated 1 December 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added introductory text for sections: 'Calorie reduction'; 'Salt reduction' and 'Commercial baby food for infants under 36 months'. Expanded the introductory text for the 'Sugar reduction' section and added the following new report: 'Sugar reduction programme: industry progress 2015 to 2020'. Added the following documents under 'Childhood obesity plan': 'Tackling obesity: government strategy'; 'Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s' and 'Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2'.

  2. Added Sugar reduction: report on progress between 2015 and 2019.

  3. Added calorie reduction guidelines, 2017 second progress report and 2024 salt reduction targets.

  4. Added: 'Sugar reduction: report on the second year of progress'.

  5. Added 'Commercial infant and baby food and drink: evidence review' to new section 'Commercial baby food for infants under 36 months'.

  6. Added 'Reduction and reformulation programme: Spring 2019 update'.

  7. Added: Salt targets 2017: progress report.

  8. Added Sugar reduction and wider reformulation programme report; Report on progress towards the first 5% reduction and next steps: Appendix 3; Sugar reduction: report on first year progress, and Sugar reduction: juice and milk based drinks report.

  9. Added a new group 'Salt reduction'.

  10. Added link to PHE's definition of free sugars in the scientific journal Public Health Nutrition.

  11. Added the document 'Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action' under the heading 'Calorie reduction'.

  12. Added sugar reduction and wider reformulation programme: interim review.

  13. First published.