23 May 2018

Following the release of new data by Public Health England (PHE), revealing that food manufacturers are failing to reduce sugar content voluntarily, the UK’s leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, feel that further government regulation will be needed.

The new sugar reduction data, released yesterday [22 May 2018], shows that voluntary action by companies remains unacceptably slow, and even non-existent in places, with an average of just a 2% reduction across eight categories of retailer and branded foods. 

This is in comparison to changes made by the soft drinks industry, since the announced introduction of the sugar levy, seeing sugar levels have fallen by an average of 11%.

The charity believes much more should be done to reduce the sugar content of foods in the UK, particularly those aimed at children, in order to have a positive impact on the nation’s oral and general health.

Speaking about the possibility of further government intervention driving change in the food and drink industry, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation said: “The recent introduction of the sugar levy in Britain shows that government regulation works as it has drastically sped up product reformulation – a measure that will have a positive impact on sugar consumption and oral health.

“Food manufactures have been given the opportunity to take responsibility for the impact of sugar in their products voluntarily, but if they do not do so, we believe that increased government regulation will be needed.

“Excessive and frequent sugar consumption is especially damaging to the UK’s oral health. It is a key reason why a child is treated in hospital every ten minutes for tooth decay - which is entirely avoidable.

“In other areas of the world where a sugar levy has been introduced, we have seen it be highly successful in reducing sugar consumption as well as improving the health of the population.

“We firmly believe that if the sugar levy in the UK was extended to other food categories, it would inevitably lead to better oral health, as well as having a greater impact on other aspects of health and wellbeing.”

The information from PHE, which has been put into the public domain, show there has been no progress in sugar reduction in biscuits and confectionery, while sugar levels associated whilst puddings have actually increased.

Key statistics show that of the top 20 food brands:

  • Only 33% showed a decrease in the sugar content. 

  • 56% showed no change in the sugar content.

  • 12% showed an increase in the sugar content.