RCPCH responds to PHE assessment of the government's sugar reduction programme

Today, Public Health England (PHE) have released the first assessment of the government’s sugar reduction programme. This report analyses the progress that has been made by the food industry in reducing the amount of sugar consumed by children through everyday foods.

The food industry has been challenged to cut 20% of sugar from a range of products by 2020, with a call to reduce sugar levels by at least 5% in the first year. Businesses are encouraged to focus their efforts on their top selling products within 10 categories by reducing sugar levels, reducing the portion size or encouraging consumers to purchase lower/no sugar alternatives.

Responding to the publication of Public Health England’s first assessment of progress achieved on government’s sugar reduction programme, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

"These results, whilst hugely disappointing, show that industry can reformulate but must do better. Of the top 20 brands, only a third showed any decrease in sugar content – and worryingly 12% actually increased the amount of sugar in their products. The 5% reduction target for the first year has only been met by three food groups, which doesn’t bode well for meeting the 20% target by 2020. At best, this is industry being slow to react, at worst – and in reality – it seriously calls into question industry’s engagement with the voluntary approach.

"Government will soon be left with no choice but to introduce mandatory targets and there must be clarity as to the timeline for this process and what the targets would be.

"We need a package of tough measures if we have any chance of reducing the amount of sugar the nation, and particularly children, are consuming, and which we know is a major contributor to the growing obesity epidemic."

The next progress report on the sugar reduction programme is due in spring 2019.