RSPH is backing the challenge set by Public Health England (PHE) for the food industry to cut sugar by 20% by 2020, and by 5% this year.

Currently, two-thirds of the UK adult population are overweight or obese, and one in five of our children leave primary school classed as obese. Sugar consumption is a major contributing factor to these trends, with children consuming three times as much sugar as they should be on a daily basis.

PHE estimates their advisory reduction could remove 200,000 tonnes of sugar from the UK market by 2020 if fully implemented.

The sugar reduction targets are entirely voluntary and it will be up to food companies to implement the changes. Businesses are being encouraged to meet the targets by cutting sugar levels, reducing product size or portion size and pushing consumers towards no-added or lower sugar content alternatives. 

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “The challenge set by PHE represents an important opportunity for industry to prove that they are serious about addressing the obesity epidemic facing our country. The targets are ambitious but achievable, and would go a long way to reducing the amount of sugar our children are consuming every year if properly implemented.

“It is encouraging that leading industry players such as Nestlé have already taken positive steps to help consumers reduce their sugar consumption, but it is vital that they do not rest on their laurels, and that other manufacturers follow suit. There is a momentum of positive action after the announcement of the sugar levy on soft drinks last year, and industry should take this chance to get ahead of the curve. Voluntary action would represent a huge statement of intent from industry and negate the need for legislation in the future – something which must remain on the table as an option if sugar reduction targets are not met. If they are, it will leave a very sweet taste in the mouth for the health of our nation and future generations to come.”