While the food industry continues to battle something as innocuous — and necessary — as added sugar labeling on the Nutrition Facts Panel in the United States, some good news out of the United Kingdom: a new report by Public Health England (an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health) titled “Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action.”
Highlights from the executive summary:
- “Sugar intakes of all population groups are above the recommendations, contributing between 12 to 15% of energy. Consumption of sugar and sugar sweetened drinks is particularly high in school age children.”
- “Food is now more readily available, more heavily marketed, promoted and advertised and, in real terms, is much cheaper than ever before. All of these nudge us towards over consumption.”
- “The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has concluded that the recommended average population maximum intake of sugar should be halved: it should not exceed 5% of total dietary energy. SACN also recommended that consumption of sugar sweetened drinks should be minimised by both adults and children. By meeting these recommendations within 10 years we would not only improve an individual’s quality of life but could save the NHS, based on a conservative assessment, around £500m every year.”
- “Children in England are exposed to a high volume of marketing and advertising in many different forms both old (eg TV advertising, radio, cinema, press and billboards) and new (eg advergames, social media, online advertising), as well as through sponsorship by food and drinks companies of TV programmes, public amenities and events. Available research evidence shows that all forms of marketing consistently influence food preference, choice and purchasing in children and adults. “
- “Research studies and impact data from countries that have already taken action suggest that price increases, such as by taxation, can influence purchasing of sugar sweetened drinks and other high sugar products at least in the short-term with the effect being larger at higher levels of taxation.”
While this is very encouraging to read, it’s also a stark reminder of how toothless the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ messaging is in comparison (i.e.: “there are no good or bad foods”). Food industry front group IFIC, which is quite cozy with AND, continues to downplay concerns about added sugar — and don’t forget about the presence of both The Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners at AND’s annual conference expo floor.
AND leadership avoids this topic with a ten-foot pole, most likely because it doesn’t jive with the organization’s current sponsors. Yet another reason why sponsorship reform is so necessary.
Kudos to Public Health England for prioritizing public health and not being afraid to take a stand.