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Action on Sugar predicts obesity plan is doomed to failure

David Cameron’s obesity plan is set to fail before it is even launched, claims Action on Sugar.

Action on Sugar is a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health. It has learned from sources close to the government that during the year that the Prime Minister’s obesity plan has been delayed, it has been severely eroded by strong lobbying from certain members of the food industry and in particular, food industry representative bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation and the British Soft Drinks Association.
According to Action on Sugar’s source, the food industry is only going to be asked to reduce sugar in products by 20% and this will be a voluntary system rather than regulated, making it even weaker. Based on its own evidence and that from Public Health England, Action on Sugar has called for an overall 50% sugar reduction in food and drink. If the aim is only to reduce sugar by 20% through a voluntary system that is not enforced, the actual reduction is likely to be far less. Action on Sugar says this means the reduced calorie intake per person per day may be as little as 20 calories, which is not sufficient to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes in either children or adults.
The British Retail Consortium, on behalf of all the supermarkets, has asked for a mandated or regulated system. During the last few months Action on Sugar has had many meetings with the branded section of the food industry and reports that many of those would much prefer to have a mandated or regulated system, as the voluntary system does not give them the level playing field that is essential for reformulation.
It would also appear that there are only likely to be minor restrictions in marketing of foods and drinks high in sugar, salt and saturated fat to children. The food industry has a brilliant record of evading these types of marketing restrictions and it is likely to have little effect on the widespread marketing of foods targeted at both children and their parents.
Action on Sugar recommends a far bigger reduction in calorie intake is necessary, which will require:
* An escalating sugary drinks tax. Currently the tax is only 10-20% of the sale price, which will have an effect, but imagine if it was the same as the cigarette tax, which is 800% of the sale price, i.e. a 350ml can of sugar sweetened Coca-Cola would cost around £5.50.

* More severe restrictions on marketing, with the long term aim that only healthy foods and drinks are marketed. There is no justification for marketing unhealthy products to children who are a vulnerable group.

* A reduction of 200 to 300 calories per day, the amount Public Health England states we currently over-consume by. Action on Sugar’s calculations conclude that a 50% reduction in sugar content and a 20% reduction in fat by reformulation in all food and drink products would give a calorie reduction of more than 200kcal/person/day which would prevent obesity, if implemented with the other actions above.

Professor MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chair of Action on Sugar, says: “David Cameron has the opportunity to make the UK the first country in the world to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes but he has to be decisive with the soft drink and food industry and stick to a more effective and ambitious policy. From what we are hearing, his plan will have little effect on childhood or adult obesity and type 2 diabetes - a tragedy for the UK.”