Press release

PHE kick starts debate on sugar reduction

Public Health England (PHE) has published a paper, 'Sugar Reduction: Responding to the Challenge', discussing the nation's sugar intake.


In ‘Sugar Reduction: Responding to the Challenge’, PHE is calling on charities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, businesses, retailers and consumers to work together to reduce the amount of sugar we eat as a nation.

By analysing dietary data and discussing food habits with stakeholders, we have identified a range of areas that need exploring further.

PHE already runs successful marketing campaigns designed to promote healthy living. To build on this, we also want to look at the way foods are being advertised to children, financial measures that relate to sugar sweetened drinks, food procurement across the public sector and education and training.

Today, PHE received a draft report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN): ‘Carbohydrates and Health’. PHE is particularly interested in SACN’s research because it is clear that the nation is consuming more sugar than the UK’s current recommendations. Diets high in sugar can contribute to excess calorie intake, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said:

Eating too much sugar is harming our health; excess sugar and calorie intake leads to being overweight and obese and consequently having a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast and colon cancer. Currently a third of our 10 and 11 year olds are overweight or obese with the majority coming from the most deprived communities which is unacceptable.

This paper sets out issues for discussion on how to help the nation to reduce its sugar intake. We look forward to working in partnership with the wider public health community and other key stakeholders on improving the nation’s diet.

Honorary Chairman of the BDA, Siân O’Shea, added:

The British Dietetic Association very much welcomes the call for a balanced discussion on how we can all work together and commit to helping people reduce their sugar intake. We look forward to working with a wide range of key stakeholders on taking this forward.

The success of the national salt reduction programme resulted in a 15% reduction of salt consumption in the UK. We can replicate this success again if we have a platform for discussion and collaboration. PHE are providing the landscape in which this challenge can be met.

Barbara Gallani, Director of Regulation, Science and Health at the Food and Drink Federation, said:

Britain’s food and drink manufacturers want to continue to play a part in helping consumers reduce their calorie intake and be more active and have committed to reducing calories in their products under the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal. In some cases this has included a reduction in sugar as part of the wider calorie reduction plan. FDF would support constructive discussions and further collaborative work based on robust evidence.


Notes to editors

  1. Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.

  2. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has now reviewed the evidence base, drawn draft conclusions and proposed new recommendations on sugar intakes. SACN’s are now undertaking a consultation on their draft findings. Once finalised in late 2014 / early 2015 PHE will provide advice to the Department of Health on any changes to dietary messaging that may be needed.

  3. Once SACN’s consultation closes, they will consider responses and review its preliminary findings and finalise its report, which will then be passed to PHE. PHE will then consider its advice to the Department of Health and propose any necessary amendments to Government nutrition advice. It is only once this process has been completed that the current COMA 1991 recommendations on sugar may be replaced.

  4. Change4Life, PHE’s flagship social marketing programme uses a range of media to support families to make a positive change to their diet activity levels.

  5. PHE has already held two stakeholder meetings to discuss a range of possible options for sugar reduction. The discussions were informed by a paper commissioned by PHE from the UK Health Forum. The paper scoped the range of possible actions that may reduce sugar consumption. In all, 23 options were identified.

  6. Excess sugar intake also contributes to tooth decay. In 2012, almost a third of 5 year olds in England had tooth decay. There are also stark inequalities across the regions, for example, 21.2% of 5 year olds had tooth decay in South East England compared to 34.8% in the North West of England with even greater inequalities within local authority areas.

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Published 26 June 2014