Public Health England (PHE) says retailers and manufacturers have achieved a 2% reduction in sugar, as it publishes its first assessment of progress achieved on the government’s sugar reduction programme.
Steve Brine, the public health minister, said: “We lead the world in having the most stringent sugar reformulation targets and it is encouraging to see that some progress has been made in the first year.
“However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We are monitoring progress closely and have not ruled out taking further action.”
Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE, commented: “While this doesn’t meet the 5% ambition, we recognise there are more sugar reduction plans from the food industry in the pipeline – and some changes to products that are not yet captured in the data as they took effect after the first year cut-off point.
“We have seen some of the food industry already make good progress, and they should be commended for this. We also know that further progress is in the pipeline.
“However, tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action.”
As part of the government’s plan to reduce childhood obesity, the food industry – including retailers, manufacturers, caterers, restaurants, cafes and pub chains – has been challenged to cut 20% of sugar from a range of products by 2020, with a 5% reduction in the first year.
Sugar has been reduced by 11% by retailers and manufacturers in drinks included in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.
New guidelines for the drinks industry to reduce sugar in juice and milk based drinks have also been published.
For the eight food categories where progress has been measured, the assessment also shows:
There have been reductions in sugar levels across five categories, with yogurts and fromage frais, breakfast cereals, and sweet spreads and sauces all meeting or exceeding the initial 5% sugar reduction ambition.
Sugar levels are generally the same across all sectors, although in the out of home sector, portion sizes in products likely to be consumed in one go are substantially larger – on average more than double – than those of retailers and manufacturers.
Retailers and manufacturers have also reduced calories in products likely to be consumed in one go in four categories, for example by reducing the size of the product. Of these, ice cream, lollies and sorbets, and yogurts and fromage frais have reduced average calories by more than 5%.
Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE chief nutritionist, said: “This is about tackling the nation’s obesity crisis. Too many children and adults suffer the effects of obesity, as does society, with our NHS under needless pressure.
“Obesity widens economic inequalities, affecting the poor the hardest.”