UK TO LEAD EUROPE-WIDE SUGAR AND CALORIE REDUCTION NETWORK
The World Health Organisation has chosen the UK to lead a new Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network to reduce sugar and calorie intake across Europe.
The work of the Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will take place with the food and drink industry to reduce products high in fat, salt and sugar, helping to tackle global rates of obesity.
The Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will launch next spring and will invite around 50 countries within the World Health Organisation’s Europe region, which covers a wider reach than the European Commission’s remit.
Sajid Javid, UK Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “We will work closely with our European partners to challenge the food industry to reduce sugar and calories in its products – reducing obesity, relieving pressure on health services and increasing our resilience to COVID-19 and any future pandemics.
“It’s a testament to the success of our work in the UK to help people eat more healthily that we have been chosen to lead this program.”
The Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network’s member states will share learning and technical expertise to encourage manufacturers to reformulate products by cutting the amount of sugar, and therefore calories, in food and drinks to ensure they are healthier.
Building on mixed successes
The Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will support both the UK government’s existing commitments to the sugar and calorie reduction programs and its global Tackling Obesity strategy, published last year
These programs challenge the food industry across the UK to reduce the sugar and calorie in foods most commonly consumed by children.
The UK will leverage its expertise in domestic sugar and calorie reduction to support its European neighbours.
The UK has seen good progress in some sectors, such as sugar reduction. Sugar in the UK has been reduced by 13% in breakfast cereals, yogurts and fromage frais.
Sugar intake from soft drinks also dropped by 10% in the UK one year after the soft drinks industry levy was put into place.
However, other food and beverage areas have faced criticism for falling short of healthier targets, with a report last October stating that sugar was reduced by only 3% in the main products that contribute most to UK children’s sugar intake.
In its continued efforts, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care’s new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities – launching on October 1 – will lead national efforts to improve and level up the health of the nation by tackling obesity, helping improve mental health and promoting physical activity.
The Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will encourage manufacturers to reformulate products to be healthier.
The UK’s Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network leadership puts into action its “Global Britain” ambitions, with the UK working with member states to drive forward collective action to influence both Europe and the world in tackling obesity.
In a global market where food is increasingly supplied by the same international companies, collective action on reducing sugar and calories will galvanize the food industry to take greater and faster action.
Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said: “Obesity is a global problem, and we need to take urgent action to help people live healthier lives. This starts with the food and drink we consume and reducing the elements that are bad for our health.”
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) flagged last year that collective action would be needed to prevent childhood obesity.
The pandemic’s call
In light of COVID-19’s detrimental outcomes on obese individuals, the UK established a raft of measures to reduce extra weight in July last year.
Javid said: “Evidence suggests that people living with obesity are at greater risk of being seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. By taking action to reduce sugar and calories in food and drink, the network will not only address rising rates of global obesity but increase global resilience both to COVID-19 and future pandemics.”