The UK government agency, Public Health England (PHE) has released voluntary guidelines aimed at reducing children’s sugar intake by the year 2020. The hope is that these sugar limits will help young people achieve a five percent reduction in their sugar intake in the next year, with a total 20 percent reduction in the next three years.
The recommended sugar limits will affect nine different categories of food, including biscuits, cereals, chocolate and ice cream, which have been shown to contribute most to sugar intake. The PHE also stipulates that the reduction in sugar should not be compensated for by an increase in saturated fat, and the government body is also looking for reduced calorie products.
According to Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s Director for Cancer Prevention, excess sugar consumption has been associated with an increased risk of obesity. In turn, obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer as they age.
“Without action, the problem is only going to get worse, so it’s vital this new program works towards the goal of slashing the amount of sugar hidden in our food,” said Cox. “But this won’t happen unless the food industry acts now to meet these targets.”
In addition to recommending that the food industry lower sugar levels in products – especially those aimed at children – PHE says portion sizes should be cut down. They also recommend that consumers be encouraged to buy lower sugar/no added sugar food products.
“If industry can’t make this work, the NHS will struggle to deal with the obesity crisis we’re hurtling towards,” said Cox. “But this doesn’t have to be the case and we can’t afford to get this wrong. We hope to see companies cutting down on sugar and portion sizes over the coming years to play their part in improving our health.”
According to the PHE guidance document, overconsumption of sugar in the UK has contributed to obesity, tooth decay and other health problems. Along with leading to poorer health outcomes for citizens, excessive sugar consumption also places a substantial economic burden on the NHS.
“Overweight and obese children are likely to carry this health problem into adulthood, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers,” said PHE’s chief nutritionist, Dr. Alison Tedstone. “Levels of obesity are higher in children from deprived backgrounds. Tackling the amount of sugar we eat is not just a healthy thing to do, but an issue of inequality for many families.”