Children in England have consumed more than a year’s worth of sugar in less than six months, according to figures from Public Health England (PHE).
Children aged four to 10 years should have no more than the equivalent of five or six cubes of sugar per day, but are consuming 13 on average.
Sugary soft drinks and buns, cakes pastries and fruit pies are the main contributors of free sugars to children’s diets. Spreads, preserves and table sugar follow closely behind, along with biscuits and breakfast cereals.
Research by the British Nutrition Foundation, also published this week, showed that 60% of 11- to 16-year-olds bought takeaways like chips or fried chicken at lunchtime or after school at least once a week.
The two studies come as the government continues work on a revised Childhood Obesity Plan.
PHE encouraged parents to switch to lower or no added sugar alternatives when buying snacks for their children.
Health campaigners used the findings to push for tighter restrictions on the advertising of junk food to children, action on price promotions of unhealthy products and clearer food labelling.
In May, PHE published the food sector’s progress against voluntary targets to reduce sugar in a wide range of products. Levels of sugar had fallen 2% against the interim target of 5%.
PHE was unable to provide any measure of progress at all for the out of home sector, citing limitations with the data. This prompted the likes of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, to demand greater commitment from foodservice companies.
A blog by PHE’s chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said out of home businesses have not been “let off the hook” in reducing sugar in their products and expects them to “step up and take comprehensive action” before it reports progress in 2019.