Health boss welcomes sugar campaign

By on 09/01/2014 in News

Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, today welcomed a campaign aiming to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.

Action on Sugar aims to help people avoid 'hidden sugars' and campaigners believe they can persuade manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar added to their products by 20-30 per cent within three to five years.

The campaign group, headed by leading health experts from across the globe, says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease in a way that “is practical, will work and will cost very little”.

Dr Phillips, who has played a leading role in developing Birmingham's Childhood Obesity Strategy, said: “Reducing the frankly obscene levels of sugar in many foods and soft drinks would be a huge step forward and the simple fact is that this added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever.

“The high level of sugar in our food not only plays a big part in the obesity epidemic but there is growing evidence that it increases the risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and of course it has an impact on dental health.

“Here in Birmingham we’ve identified the childhood obesity crisis as a priority and our recent inquiry into the issue outlined efforts being made by the city council and NHS partners. But, as with a number of public health issues, we need support from both the Government and the food industry.

“This is a national crisis and there will be no magic overnight solution but a failure to act now will result in disastrous consequences.”

Action on Sugar

The major initial focus for Action On Sugar will be to adopt a similar model to salt reduction pioneered by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). This model has become one of the most successful nutritional policies in the UK since the Second World War, by setting targets for the food industry to add less salt to all of their products, over a period of time. As this is done slowly, people do not notice the difference in taste.

Salt intake has fallen in the UK by 15% (between 2001-2011) and most products in the supermarkets have been reduced between 20 and 40%, with a minimum reduction of 6,000 strokes and heart attack deaths a year, and a healthcare saving cost of £1.5bn.

A similar programme can be developed to gradually reduce the amount of added sugar with no substitution in food and soft drinks by setting targets for all foods and soft drinks where sugar has been added. Action On Sugar has calculated that a 20 to 30% reduction in sugar added by the food industry which, given a reasonable timeframe (3-5 years) is easily achievable, would result in a reduction in calorie intake of approximately 100kcal/day and more in those people who are particularly prone to obesity.

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