Public Health England (PHE) has issued an October 2015 evidence review urging the U.K. government to reduce sugar consumption. Building on the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN’s) conclusion that free sugar intake should constitute less than 5 percent of dietary energy, the report discusses food and beverage marketing, sugar accessibility and product composition, educational efforts, and local initiatives. PHE also addresses taxation schemes, noting that price increases “can influence purchasing of sugar-sweetened drinks and other high sugar products at least in the short-term.”

The findings target retail promotions and marketing to children as two key aspects of the food environment that allegedly promote sugar consumption. Among other things, the report specifically recommends (i) restricting the number and type of price promotions across all retail outlets; (ii) reducing food and beverage marketing to children as well as adults; (iii) defining high-sugar foods according to Ofcom’s nutrient profiling model; (iv) instituting a program to gradually reduce portion sizes and the amount of sugar contained in food and drink products; and (v) introducing a 10 to 20 percent minimum tax on high-sugar products and sugar-sweetened beverages. In addition, PHE asks the government to implement “buying standards for food and catering services across the public sector… to ensure provision and sale of healthier food and drinks in hospitals, leisure centers, etc.”

“PHE’s evidence review shows there is no silver bullet solution to the nation’s bad sugar habit. A broad and balanced approach is our best chance of reducing sugar consumption to healthier levels and to see fewer people suffering the consequences of too much sugar in the diet,” said Chief Nutritionist Alison Tedstone in an October 22 press release, which estimates that reducing sugar consumption to recommended levels would save the National Health Service approximately £480 million annually. “We’ve shared [our] findings with the Government and are working with them on its childhood obesity strategy.”

Additional details about SACN’s dietary recommendations appear in Issue 529 of this Update.