Out of home sector told to step up on sugar

Foodservice businesses have been warned to increase their efforts to reduce sugar or face government action.

Speaking at last week’s Food Matters Live event in London, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said customers want faster progress from the food industry, and in particular, those businesses that have taken little or no action. PHE will be publicly reporting on these during 2019, he added.

In May, PHE’s first assessment of progress on the government’s sugar reduction programme showed a 2% decrease in sugar against a 5% first year target. Just three of the eight specified product categories – breakfast cereals, yoghurts and sweet spreads and sauces – hit the 5% target. PHE was unable to provide any measure of progress at all for the out of home sector, citing limitations with the data.

Next year, PHE will publish further progress towards reaching the 20% sugar reduction ambition by 2020, as well as guidelines for industry to achieve the 20% reduction in calories by 2024.

Selbie’s comments follow a new survey published by PHE, which showed nine in 10 people support the government working with the food industry to make everyday foods and drinks healthier. This applied to all sectors – no concessions were made for food consumed in restaurants, coffee shops or cafés, despite this often being labelled as a “treat”.

Helping the NHS was named as one of the main reasons for people supporting this work. Almost four in five (79%) believe obesity has a negative impact on the NHS.

Responsibility for tackling obesity lies with individuals and families (90%), the food industry (80%) and the government (72%). “Plans to improve the nation’s diet are often described as ‘nanny state’ interference, but it’s clear people want healthier food and they expect the industry to play their full part in this,” said Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE.

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