The public health body for England has said that a review will take place in 2020 on whether to add milk-based drinks to the UK’s sugar tax, as it sets a range of sugar reduction targets.
In the UK’s sugar tax, which was introduced last month, dairy drinks with at least 75% milk or any milk substitute with at least 120mg of calcium per 100ml are excluded from the levy, partly due to the nutritional value of the beverages.
New guidelines have been published by Public Health England for the drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through juice and milk based drinks.
By mid-2012, the drinks industry is encouraged to: reduce sugar in juice-based drinks (excluding single juice) by 5%, cap all juice-based drinks (including blended juices, smoothies and single juices) likely to be consumed in one go to 150 calories, and reduce sugar in milk-based (and milk substitutes) drinks by 20% and cap products likely to be consumed in one go to 300 calories.
Fruit juice alone accounts for around 10% of the sugar consumed each day by 4 to 18 year olds in the UK.
Sugar reduction programme update
The news comes as PHE publishes the first assessment of progress on the UK government’s sugar reduction programme, measuring how far the food industry has gone towards reducing the sugar children consume through everyday foods.
As part of the government’s plan to reduce childhood obesity, the food industry – including retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, cafés and pub chains – has been challenged to cut 20% of sugar from a range of products by 2020, with a target for a 5% reduction in the first year.
Over one year since the initiative was launched, a 2% reduction in both average sugar content and calories has been achieved. In a statement, PHE said: “Whilst this doesn’t meet the 5% ambition, PHE recognises there are more sugar reduction plans from the food industry in the pipeline – and some changes to products that are not yet captured in the data as they took effect after the first year cut-off point.”
PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “We have seen some of the food industry make good progress, and they should be commended for this. We also know that further progress is in the pipeline.
“However, tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular, those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action.”
PHE chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone added: “This is about tackling the nation’s obesity crisis. Too many children and adults suffer the effects of obesity, as does society, with our NHS under needless pressure. Obesity widens economic inequalities, affecting the poor the hardest.”
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