A new pressure group formed by health experts want to see “a significant reduction” in the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks. They hope that a cut of up to 30% could help the UK’s “growing obesity problem.”
AOS (Action on Sugar), which is modelled on the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) – wants to help the public avoid products “full of hidden sugars” and encourage manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time. AOS will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar to products over time so that consumers do not notice a taste difference.
The group believes the food industry could achieve a 20% to 30% reduction in the amount of sugar added to products; it says this equates to around 100 calories per day for those who are particularly prone to obesity.
The group says flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and bread are among the everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.
The chairman of AOS, Graham MacGregor (a professor of cardio-vascular medicine), said: “We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.
“This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods.”
Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and science director of AOS, added: “Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety. Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.”
Royal College of Physicians registrar Dr Andrew Goddard said: “It is widely acknowledged that sugar is a major factor in both obesity and diabetes, and with many foods, everyday foods such as bread and breakfast cereals, containing high levels of added sugar, it can be difficult for consumers to make healthier choices.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Helping people eat fewer calories, including sugar, is a key part of the Responsibility Deal and our efforts to reduce obesity.
“There are 38 businesses signed up to reduce calories, but we want to go further still, and are discussing this with the food industry.”
“As part of the Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge, Coca Cola has reduced calories in some of its soft drinks brands by at least 30%, and Mars has reduced its single chocolate portions to no more than 250 calories.”
A favourite tactic of CASH was not “name and shame” products high in salt,and the new group has not ruled out a similar approach.