Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)

SACN advises on nutrition and related health matters. It advises the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and other UK government organisations.

Terms of reference

SACN’s advice covers the scientific aspects of nutrition and health with specific reference to:

  • nutrient intakes and nutritional status of the population
  • nutrient content of individual foods and advice on individual nutrients and diet as a whole, including the definition of a balanced diet
  • monitoring and surveillance of the above aspects
  • nutritional issues which affect wider public health policy issues including conditions where nutritional status is one of a number of risk factors (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, oral health, osteoporosis and obesity)
  • research requirements for the above.

SACN is supported in its work by a secretariat provided by OHID. Until October 2021, the secretariat was provided by Public Health England (PHE). The secretariat has scientific expertise that enables them to provide members with comprehensive background information and briefing papers to inform the decision-making processes of the Committee.

Code of practice

The SACN Code of Practice (January 2023) (PDF, 454 KB, 27 pages) sets out how the committee puts into practice the guidelines governing scientific advisory committees, such as the Government Office for Science Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees.

An earlier version of the SACN Code of Practice can be viewed on the SACN page in the National Archives.

Framework for the Evaluation of Evidence

SACN follows a set Framework and methods for the evaluation of evidence that relates food and nutrients to health (January 2023), to ensure a consistent approach is taken with all its assessments. You can also view earlier versions of the Framework.

The Framework is regularly reviewed by the Subgroup on framework and methods for evaluation of evidence.

Membership

SACN members are appointed as independent scientific experts on the basis of their specific skills and knowledge. There are also consumer and lay members.

Members are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees.

The committee is chaired by Professor Ian Young, Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.

The members are:

  • Professor Jean Adams, MRC Investigator and Professor, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait, Professor of Human Nutrition (Mineral Metabolism), Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia
  • Ms Gill Fine, Public Health Nutritionist
  • Dr Darren Greenwood, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics, University of Leeds
  • Professor Paul Haggarty, Deputy Director, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen
  • Professor Mairead Kiely, Head of School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Ireland
  • Professor Susan Lanham-New, Head of the Nutritional Sciences Department, University of Surrey
  • Professor Julie Lovegrove, Professor of Human Nutrition, Director of the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition and Deputy Director for the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, University of Reading
  • Dr David Mela (member with technical industry expertise), retired
  • Professor Ken Ong, MRC Investigator and Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology, MRC Epidemiology Unit and Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge
  • Mrs Gemma Paramor (lay member), Finance professional in accounting and investment management
  • Professor Lucilla Poston, Tommy’s Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health, Head of School of Life Course and Population Sciences, King’s College London
  • Professor Sian Robinson, Professor of Lifecourse and Lifestyle, Newcastle University
  • Dr Stella Walsh (lay member), retired academic
  • Professor Kevin Whelan, Professor of Dietetics, Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, King’s College London
  • Professor Charlotte Wright, Professor of Community Child Health, University of Glasgow

Further information on committee members is included in SACN Annual Reports.

Register of interests

The SACN Register of Interests (PDF, 482 KB, 69 pages) contains details of all declarations of interest by members of SACN, its subgroup and working groups. This information is updated as and when declarations are made.

SACN meetings

2022 meetings held on 11 March, 16 June and 11 November. An additional Horizon scan meeting was held on 17 June.
2023 meetings scheduled for 16 March, 22 June and 23 November.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the SACN main meeting minutes and papers

Minutes of meetings before 2014 can be viewed on the SACN page on the National Archives


Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition (SMCN)

Terms of reference

To advise, through SACN, on such aspects of child and maternal diet and nutrition, as are referred to it by the UK health departments and SACN.

Membership

SMCN is chaired by Professor Ken Ong, SACN.

The members are:

  • Dr Robert Boyle, Clinical Reader in Paediatric Allergy, Faculty of Medicine, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London
  • Professor Marion Hetherington, Professor Emerita, School of Psychology, University of Leeds
  • Professor Alan A Jackson (co-opted external expert), Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton
  • Professor Mairead Kiely, SACN
  • Dr Sophie Moore (co-opted external expert), Reader in Global Women and Children’s Health, Kings College London
  • Professor Paula Moynihan, Director, Food and Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide
  • Professor Lucilla Poston, SACN
  • Professor Ann Prentice OBE, former Director of the MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, Programme Leader of the MRC Nutrition and Bone Health Research Group in Cambridge and the MRC Unit, The Gambia, and Honorary Professor of Global Nutrition and Health, University of Cambridge. Currently Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.
  • Professor Sian Robinson, SACN
  • Dr Stella Walsh, SACN
  • Professor Charlotte Wright, SACN

Further information on subgroup members is included in SACN Annual Reports..

Meetings

2022 meetings held on 9 February, 11 May and 18 October.
2023 meetings scheduled for 10 February, 4 May and 6 October.
Meetings are held in closed session.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the SMCN minutes.

Minutes of meetings before 2014 can be viewed on the SMCN page on the National Archives


Subgroup on SACN framework and methods for evidence evaluation

Terms of reference

To provide methodological support to SACN and its working groups, including to review the SACN framework for the evaluation of evidence to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose. This will include consideration of:

  • the process of evaluation
  • the scope of the evaluation
  • the level of the evaluation
  • how evidence is assessed
  • how evidence is graded

Membership

The subgroup is chaired by Professor Julie Lovegrove, SACN.

The members are:

  • Dr Russell de Souza (co-opted external expert), Associate Professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact; McMaster University, Canada
  • Dr Darren Greenwood, SACN
  • Dr Dave Mela, SACN
  • Professor Ken Ong, SACN
  • Ms Gemma Paramor, SACN
  • Professor Ian Young, SACN

Further information on subgroup members is included in SACN Annual Reports.

View SACN’s framework for the evaluation of evidence.

Meetings

2022 meetings held on 20 April and 8 September.
2023 meeting dates to be confirmed.
Meetings are held in closed session.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the minutes of the subgroup.


Nutrition and maternal health working group

Terms of reference

  1. To review the scientific basis of current dietary recommendations for women during preconception, pregnancy and up to 24 months after delivery, in relation to maternal health and pregnancy-related outcomes (that is maternal outcomes during pregnancy, childbirth and up to 24 months after delivery).

  2. To make recommendations based on the review of the evidence.

New evidence will not be sought where SACN has already published relevant conclusions and/or recommendations

Membership

The working group is chaired by Professor Ann Prentice OBE, former Director of the MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, Programme Leader of the MRC Nutrition and Bone Health Research Group in Cambridge and the MRC Unit, The Gambia, and Honorary Professor of Global Nutrition and Health, University of Cambridge. Currently Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.

The members are:

  • Professor Annie Anderson (co-opted external expert), Professor of Public Health Nutrition, University of Dundee
  • Professor Basma Ellahi (co-opted external expert), Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester
  • Dr Darren Greenwood, SACN
  • Professor Paul Haggarty, SACN
  • Professor Mairead Kiely, SACN
  • Professor Susan Lanham-New, SACN
  • Professor Lucilla Poston, SACN
  • Professor Sian Robinson, SACN
  • Dr Stella Walsh, SACN

Draft scope

The draft scope was issued for comments from interested parties from 27 June to 24 July 2019. You can view SACN’s responses to the received comments in the annex of the minutes of the SACN main committee meeting on 10 March 2020.

Meetings

2022 meetings held on 31 January, 29 September and 7 December.
2023 meeting dates to be confirmed.
Meetings are held in closed session.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the minutes of the working group.


Joint SACN/COT working group on plant-based drinks

Terms of reference

  • To conduct a benefit:risk assessment considering both nutritional and toxicological aspects associated with the consumption of plant-based drinks by the UK population.
  • Based on this benefit:risk assessment, to provide integrated advice to the UK health departments.

Membership

The joint working group is chaired by Professor Mike Kelly (Independent), Senior Visiting Fellow, Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge.

The members are:

  • Professor Alan Boobis (COT Chair), Emeritus Professor of Toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London
  • Dr Caroline Harris (COT member until end of March 2022), Corporate vice president, Practice Director and Principal Scientist, Exponent International Ltd
  • Professor Tim Key (co-opted external expert, formerly SACN), Professor of Epidemiology and Deputy Director, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford
  • Professor Gunter Kuhnle (COT member), Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Reading
  • Professor Sue Lanham-New, SACN
  • Professor Ken Ong, SACN

Call for evidence

A call for evidence on plant-based drinks was published on 11 March 2022 and closed on 10 April 2022.

Meetings

2022 meetings held on 3 February, 6 May and 2 November.
2023 meeting dates to be confirmed.
Meetings are held in closed session.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the minutes of the joint working group.


Vitamin D fortification working group

This working group will undertake a rapid review in response to a request from the Secretary of State for Health to consider options for improving vitamin D intakes and vitamin D status of the UK population and for reducing disparities.

The SACN vitamin D fortification working group was established to provide scientific advice on the potential of mandatory vitamin D food fortification for the UK population to achieve UK dietary recommendations for vitamin D.

Terms of reference

  1. 1. Consider the potential impact of mandatory fortification of food(s) with vitamin D. This will include:
    1. (a) consideration and interpretation of models to assess the potential impact of mandatory vitamin D fortification on achievement of UK dietary recommendations and avoidance of intakes above tolerable upper intake levels
    2. (b) review of the experiences from countries with existing vitamin D fortification programmes and their impact on vitamin D intakes and vitamin D status
    3. (c) consideration of factors that could affect the potential efficacy of vitamin D fortification in the UK including habitual diet, life stage, inequalities, ethnicity and UVB sunshine exposure
    4. (d) a review of the efficacy of different forms of vitamin D for use as a food fortificant.
  2. 2. Consider whether there is evidence published since the SACN Vitamin D and Health report (2016) that would impact upon the existing recommendations for vitamin D intake and vitamin D status.

Membership

The working group is chaired by Ms Gill Fine, SACN.

The members are:

  • Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait, SACN
  • Dr Darren Greenwood, SACN
  • Professor Paul Haggarty, SACN
  • Professor Mairead Kiely, SACN
  • Professor Susan Lanham-New, SACN
  • Dr Sophie Moore, SMCN
  • Professor Lucilla Poston, SACN
  • Dr Stella Walsh, SACN

Meetings

The first meeting was held on 19 September 2022.
2023 meeting dates to be confirmed.
Meetings are held in closed session.

The following meeting documents are now available:

View the minutes of the working group.


SACN have considered emerging evidence on nutrition and COVID-19 throughout 2020, 2021 and 2022. In June 2020 SACN produced a paper ‘Nutrition and immune function in relation to COVID-19 – a rapid scoping exercise’. SACN agreed that the scoping exercise indicated a lack of robust evidence at that current time to suggest that specific nutrients or nutritional supplements, can reduce the risk, or severity of COVID-19 or that a formal risk assessment was required.

In July 2020, PHE published a report Excess Weight and COVID-19 Insights from new evidence that provides evidence-based insights on the relationship between excess weight and COVID-19. The report concluded that the evidence consistently suggests that people with COVID-19 who are living with overweight or obesity, compared with those of a healthy weight, are at an increased risk of serious COVID-19 complications and death.

In December 2020 SACN updated its rapid review on vitamin D and acute respiratory tract infections (ARTI) (initially published in spring 2020).

At the same time, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and SACN updated the rapid guideline on vitamin D and COVID-19 (initially published in spring 2020).

Throughout 2021 and 2022 SACN continued to monitor the evidence on nutrition and COVID-19. You can view the most recent monitoring paper and earlier rounds of monitoring.


Archived Groups

Joint Working Group on lower carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes

The Joint Working Group on lower carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN report on lower carbohydrate diets for adults with type 2 diabetes’. In addition to the report, you can view the results of the public consultation, details of the joint working group (held by National Archives), and the working group’s minutes.

Older Adults Working Group

The Older Adults Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN statement on nutrition and older adults living in the community’. In addition to the report, you can view details of the working group (held by National Archives), and the working group minutes.

Saturated Fats Working Group

The Saturated Fats Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN report on ‘Saturated fats and health’. In addition to the report, you can view the results of the public consultation, details of the working group (held by National Archives), and the working group’s minutes and papers.

Joint SACN-COT Potassium-based Sodium Replacers Working Group

The Joint SACN-COT Potassium-based Sodium Replacers Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN-COT statements on potassium-based sodium replacers. In addition to the statements, you can view details of the joint working group and the working group’s minutes and papers (held by COT).

Joint SACN-COT Working Group on the timing of introduction of allergenic foods into the infant diet

The Joint SACN-COT Working Group on the timing of introduction of allergenic foods into the infant diet has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN-COT statement on the introduction of peanut and hen’s egg into the infant diet. In addition to the statement, you can view details of the joint working group (held by National Archives) and the working group’s minutes and papers (held by COT).

Military Energy DRVs Working Group

The Military Energy DRVs Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN Statement on Military Dietary Reference Values for Energy. In addition to the statement, you can view the details of the Military Energy DRVs Working Group, which are held in the National Archives and the Military Energy DRVs Working Group minutes and papers.

Vitamin D Working Group

The Vitamin D Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN Vitamin D and Health report. In addition to the report, you can view the SACN press release on the vitamin D report (PDF, 195 KB, 2 pages), the results of the public consultation and details of the Vitamin D Working Group, which are held in the National Archives.

View the Vitamin D Working Group minutes and papers from 2014 until the completion of its work.

View the Vitamin D Working Group minutes and papers before 2014 on the National Archives website.

Carbohydrates Working Group

The Carbohydrates Working Group has been disbanded following the completion of its work and publication of the SACN Carbohydrates and Health report. In addition to the report, you can view the SACN press release (PDF, 350 KB, 3 pages), the results of the public consultation and details of the Carbohydrates Working Group, which are held in the National Archives.

View the Carbohydrates Working Group minutes and papers from 2014 until the completion of its work.

View the Carbohydrate Working Group minutes and papers before 2014 on the National Archives website.


News

SACN annual report 2022 published

The SACN annual report for the calendar year 2022 has been published.

UK total diet replacement ad hoc working group

A number of SACN members were on the United Kingdom total diet replacement ad hoc working group, which recently published a Scientific opinion on the proposed changes to the compositional requirements for TDR for weight control products (defined by Regulation (EU) No 609/2013).

Consultation on draft report ‘Feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years’

The consultation on SACN’s draft report ‘Feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years’ closed on Friday 20 September 2022. SACN’s responses to the received consultation comments will be published together with the final report.

Monitoring the evidence on Nutrition and COVID-19

The latest paper on Monitoring the evidence on Nutrition and COVID-19 – update (July 2022) has been published.

Call for evidence

A call for evidence on plant-based drinks was published on 11 March and closed on 10 April 2022.

SACN report on lower carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes

The SACN report on lower carbohydrate diets for adults with type 2 diabetes was published on 26 May 2021. You can also view documents related to the consultation on the draft report. The documents include comments submitted during consultation and the response to each of these from SACN.

COMA reports available online

Reports published by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) are now available online. COMA advised UK government on matters relating to food and nutrition, prior to the establishment of SACN in 2000.


Reports

See all SACN reports

Older reports can be viewed on the SACN page on the National Archives

Position Statements

See all SACN position statements

Older position statements can be viewed on the SACN page on the National Archives

Rapid Reviews

See all SACN rapid reviews

Annual Reports

See the latest SACN annual report

Older annual reports can be viewed on the SACN annual reports page on the National Archives

COMA Reports

See reports published by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). COMA advised UK government on matters relating to food and nutrition, prior to the establishment of SACN in 2000.


Contact details

SACN Secretariat
Office for Health Improvement and Disparities
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0EU

SACN@dhsc.gov.uk


Press office: 020 7972 3272
Out of hours: 0333 320 1654
pressofficenewsdesk@dhsc.gov.uk