Chocolate bars could soon become smaller in a bid to combat the growing obesity crisis.
Manufacturers Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez could be set to shrink their chocolate bars by up to 20% to avoid being named and shamed in Public Health England’s (PHE) reports on childhood obesity, The Times reported.
Today nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese.
The health problem doubles the risk of dying prematurely, according to PHE, which means tackling the issue will inevitably save lives.
As part of the government’s action plan on tackling childhood obesity, the health body said it would launch a sugar reduction programme to remove sugar from the products children eat most - with a view to taking out 20% of sugar in these products over the next four years.
“Evidence shows that slowly changing the balance of ingredients in everyday products, or making changes to product size, is a successful way of improving diets,” reads the plan.
“All sectors of the food and drinks industry will be challenged to reduce overall sugar across a range of products that contribute to children’s sugar intakes by at least 20% by 2020, including a 5% reduction in year one.
“This can be achieved through reduction of sugar levels in products, reducing portion size or shifting purchasing towards lower sugar alternatives.”
It is not yet clear whether manufacturers will reduce prices to coincide with their products shrinking in size.
The decision to reduce bar sizes - rather than reformulate recipes - comes after some manufacturers said they couldn’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, as it changes the taste and can result in a laxative effect.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Parents want help to make healthier food choices and for their children to eat less sugar.
“We’re supporting all sectors of the food and drink industry to lower how much sugar children get from everyday products, either through reformulation, portion sizes or encouraging parents to buy products with less sugar in them.”
A Nestlé spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK that it would consider recipe reformulation in addition to re-sizing.
“While re-sizing is an effective way to reduce sugar, calories and fat from confectionery, it is certainly not the only choice,” they said.
“Recipe reformulation, ingredient substitution and the use of new technologies are all possibilities and with the right investment behind them, could deliver significant reductions.
“Nestlé is in the process of looking at all options and we are keeping in close contact with PHE while they establish their sugar reduction programme”.
A spokesperson for Mondelez told HuffPost UK: “We have been an active partner in the consultation on the Childhood Obesity Plan and the sugar reduction targets and look forward to seeing the output of this in March.
“As a result of what is published we will consider all the options available to us as we look to continuing to play our role in tackling public health issues such as obesity.
“Importantly, we have already been very active in this space including offering more portion control products, bringing all our single portion chocolate bars under 250kcal, and launching sugar-free offerings such as Halls and Trebor Mighties.”