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New campaign aims to cut sugar in food and drink

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

9th January 2014 – A new campaign group has been launched to help tackle the damage to health caused by eating and drinking too much sugar.

Action on Sugar wants to do what Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) did for salt levels in food. The group's members include many of the team behind the salt campaign.

Sugar is a major factor in both obesity and diabetes, and many everyday foods such as bread and breakfast cereals contain high levels of added sugar.

The food and drinks industry says it is already working to reduce sugar in products where this will lead to an overall calorie reduction.

Surprising sources of sugar

Action on Sugar says many people know that some colas contain 9 teaspoons of added sugar, but fewer people are aware of flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and bread having extra sugar in their ingredients.

In a statement, the chairman of Action on Sugar, Professor Graham MacGregor says: "The present government and Department of Health Responsibility Deal has been shown to have had no effect on calorie intake and we must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks. 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."

In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson says: "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."


Several groups have issued statements reacting to the launch of Action on Sugar.

British Heart Foundation associate medical director, Mike Knapton, says: "If manufacturers made small changes to the products we eat everyday it could make a difference to our waistlines. It would need to be combined with other measures to fully address the problem of obesity, but it’s a step in the right direction.

"Taking action to reduce the sugar content in our favourite treats is a great way to help us all to eat less of the sweet stuff. However, this doesn’t mean that we need to stop thinking about our overall diet. Enjoying a healthy balanced diet, and making sure you get plenty of exercise, will help you to keep your heart healthy and your weight down."

The Royal College of Physicians has welcomed the launch of Action on Sugar. RCP registrar Dr Andrew Goddard says: "It is widely acknowledged that sugar is a major factor in both obesity and diabetes, and with many everyday foods such as bread and breakfast cereals containing high levels of added sugar, it can be difficult for consumers to make healthier choices.

"We strongly support Action on Sugar’s campaign for clearer nutritional labelling of food and drink, and welcome their call for evidence-based government action to improve the public’s health by reducing the amount of sugar added to food and drink by manufacturers."

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