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PHE-led programme asks industry to remove 20% of the sugar from food eaten most by children.

Food and drink industry businesses, health charities and campaign groups attended a Public Health England (PHE) briefing on the reduction and reformulation programme today (Thursday 29 September).

The programme is a major action in the government’s childhood obesity plan, published in August.

At the event, the audience were addressed by the health secretary Jeremy Hunt and PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie, stressing how vital it was to tackle childhood obesity and how the reduction and reformulation programme is an integral part of the response.

Duncan Selbie said:

It’s shocking that a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. We need take action now to ensure more children do not continue down that path into adulthood and suffer serious health complications as a result.

What’s in our food and drink clearly affects our health and the food and drink industry can be a powerful influence on what we eat. We’re pleased to be leading together on what we believe will be the most extensive, formal and structured programme of food reformulation anywhere in the world.

Delegates at the event, representing some of the largest food and drink industry businesses, charities and campaigners were given a briefing by PHEChief Nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone on the programme:

  • industry has been asked to remove 20% of the sugar from food categories that contribute the most to children’s diets by 2020, starting with 5% in year 1
  • PHE will support this by setting clear targets, close monitoring and the publication of transparent and comparable data
  • in parallel, PHE expects work to continue to meet the existing salt reduction targets for 2017
  • later in 2017, PHE will develop a similar overall reduction programme for calories
  • the programme may eventually include targets on saturated fats, but this will be subject to the outcome of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) review on saturated fats, due in 2017

PHE set out its expectation that all sectors of the food and drink industry, including the out of home sector (restaurants, cafes, pubs and takeaways) should take part in the programme.

PHE will lead a programme of significant meetings with industry from October 2016 to discuss category specific targets.

The categories will be:

  • breakfast cereals
  • confectionary
  • ice-cream
  • yoghurts and fromage frais
  • morning goods like croissants and puddings
  • sweet spreads
  • biscuits
  • cakes
  • puddings

In a commitment to accountability and transparency, PHE will publish regular progress reports. The government will use these reports to decide whether it is satisfied with how much progress has been made and whether other levers are needed, as set out in its childhood obesity plan.

In addition to the clear expectations of industry, charities and health campaigners will be able to scrutinise the programme. PHE encourages other stakeholders to actively recognise reductions when they are achieved.

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