30/03/2017 11:04 BST | Updated 30/03/2018 06:12 BST

Sugar Reduction - Industry Must Unsweeten Our Diets

We may have Mary Poppins to thank for convincing us that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but over 50 years since she first graced our screens, the sweet stuff has become a far more integral part of our daily diets.


We are all eating too much sugar and it is a key driver for the dangerously high levels of overweight and obesity in the UK.

Simply telling people to eat less or exercise more doesn't work. Obesity is a complex problem and therefore needs to be tackled by action in a number of areas but improving our food is a very good place to start.

If we are going to get serious about tackling obesity, then we need to tackle the food environment that encourages us all to overeat.

For years the food industry has made millions selling products loaded with high amounts of sugar. Much of this sugar is 'hidden' in foods like savoury meals and snacks. The Government has set a very achievable goal to the food and drink industry of reducing sugar from the foods frequently eaten by children by 20% by 2020.

These reductions are expected to take place gradually, over time, starting with 5% for the first year. A small number of products on the market already have lower levels of sugar within each food category, showing that the targets are achievable, despite what some industry giants would like us to believe.

The food industry as a whole must now step up to the bar and take responsibility by reducing sugar in their products by 20% or more. If they can't - or won't - meet these targets they must expect tougher sanctions.

The public health community will be monitoring the process closely and reminding Government of their promise to use other levers if progress is not made.

We can't afford to get this wrong. Levels of child and adult overweight and obesity are at a devastating all-time high, costing the NHS millions that it just can't afford. The nation's diet needs to be unsweetened and fast.