Blitz On Sweet Treats Sees Slow Start


The sugar hit in puddings, biscuits and chocolate has not been cut despite a government crackdown on sweet treats.

Public Health England has set a target of reducing the sugar intake from a host of popular foods by a fifth by 2020.

Its first year update shows progress in yoghurts and breakfast cereals, but not in other areas.

PHE said it still represented a good start, although it expected faster progress in the coming years.

But Tim Rycroft, of the Food and Drink Federation, said sugar reduction was “challenging – it can’t happen overnight”.

“Sugar reduction has considerable technical challenges,” he said.

“Sugar plays a variety of roles beyond sweetness in food, including colour, texture and consistency.

“It is for these reasons that we have long said that the guidelines are ambitious and will not be met across all categories or in the timescale outlined.”

The tactics: Cutting sugar and portion size

The measuring of sugar levels is based on the amount per 100g (3.5oz) of all products, within the 10 categories, sold.

The big supermarket chains have cut the amount of sugar – known as reformulation – in many of their own-brand cereals, ice-creams and yoghurts.

And big brands such as Muller have followed suit. The sugar content of its bestselling Corner strawberry twinpot has been cut by a fifth, to 12.6g per 110g.

Meanwhile, Nestle has cut sugar in Kit Kats and Milkybars, adding extra milk – and, in the case of Kit Kats, cocoa – to retain their weights.

Which companies have failed?

PHE has provided anonymous information on the 20 brands that sell the most products with high sugar levels:

  • 33% have seen a fall in sugar levels
  • 56% have seen no change
  • 12% have seen an increase

While PHE is not naming these brands, the report did provide some individual company information by the different food groups.

But in an appearance before MPs on Wednesday, PHE bosses came under fire for not naming and shaming companies.

Health committe chair Sarah Wollaston said it seemed “a bit of a shame” given some companies had made progress and some had not.

Is this part of the sugar tax?

No. The sugar levy is a separate policy applied to high-sugar drinks. That came into force in April.

This sugar-reduction programme is aimed at popular foods that account for a quarter of calories consumed by children.

The drinks targeted by the sugar levy account for another 5%.

And a separate calorie-reduction programme has been launched targeting foods such as pizzas, burgers and takeaways, which account for another 20%..

PHE has also announced on Tuesday that the sugar-reduction target will be extended to those drinks not covered by the sugar tax.