Action on Sugar, a U.K. public health advocacy group, is taking aim at sugar, initially targeting processed foods and beverages, including soft drinks, flavored water, sports drinks, yogurts, ketchup and ready meals.
"This ... gives an opportunity to the food and soft drinks industry to shift towards healthier options without having a significant effect on their profit margins," the group says.
The effort will include a public health campaign focused on children and mirrors similar efforts on salt. The goal, the group says, is to reduce incidence of obesity and chronic disease.
"Salt intake has fallen in the U.K. by 15% (between 2001-2011) and most products in the supermarkets have been reduced between 20 and 40%, with a minimum reduction of 6,000 strokes and heart attack deaths a year, and a healthcare saving cost of £1.5bn," the group argues.
The group aims to "ensure clear and comprehensive nutritional labeling of the sugar content of all processed foods" and "ensure the government and DH [Department of Health] take action, and that, if the food industry do not comply with the sugar targets, they will enact legislation or impose a sugar tax."
“We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide," says Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar. "The present government and Department of Health Responsibility Deal has been shown to have had no effect on calorie intake and we must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks. This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods.”
The organization also quotes Simon Capewell, professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, U.K., as saying, “Sugar is the new tobacco. Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health. The obesity epidemic is already generating a huge burden of disease and death. Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5billion every year. Without regulation, these costs will exceed £50 billion by 2050."