The text of the Sugar in Food and Drinks (Targets, Labelling and Advertising) Bill 2014-2015 (the “Bill”) was published today (7 January) in advance of its second reading in the Commons, currently scheduled for 16 January 2015.

The Bill would require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Food Standards Agency, to set targets for the total amount of sugar to be consumed in the UK annually with the aim of reducing the amount of sugar consumed (and therefore the sugar content of products), and to provide an annual update on progress against these targets to Parliament.

The proposals would also add a further labelling requirement on products whereby the sugar content of food and drink products would be represented in teaspoon units, with each teaspoonful regarded as 4 grams of sugar.

Finally, the Bill puts forward the introduction of standards on the advertisement of food and drink products, including ensuring that the sugar content of a product is displayed on any advertisement or promotional material. It would also prohibit the description of a product as “healthy” or “low-fat” where the sugar content exceeded 20%.

Whilst the Bill is highly unlikely to become law with the General Election looming in May, it does have cross-party support, so provides an insight into the potential future regulation of the sugar content of food and drink products. The sector is clearly under continued pressure in respect of sugar, though it is questionable whether such regulation is necessary or helpful, given the innovative and voluntary steps already being taken by producers and retailers to address this complex issue.