Industry must support parents in reducing child sugar intake


Sugar intakeThe Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) fully backs PHE’s call for sugars-sweetened drinks to be cut from children’s daily diets but urges industry to play a much more responsible role in supporting parents’ efforts. The call has emerged as a result of recommendations from expert nutritionists in a recent report, ‘Carbohydrates and Health.’ The much-needed review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition finds strong, consistent evidence of the harmful impact of sugar on health, implying a radical overhaul in strategies to tackle the obesity and diabetes crises.

The report revises down the recommended daily limit on ‘free’ sugars, which should be less than 5% of a person’s daily energy intake. It also makes clear that not only added sugars, but also fruit juices, syrups and honey should be included in this limit.

According to these new findings, the nation’s sugary diet is even more out of balance than previously thought. Current average intakes in all age groups are at least twice the new limits and three times higher in 11- to 18-year olds, with the main source being sugars-sweetened drinks (including fizzy drinks, juice drinks, energy drinks, squashes and cordials).

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH: “This fresh evidence cannot be ignored and the need for action at every level is absolutely clear: from government to industry, in schools and in the home. If we do not act now we will face overwhelming levels of diet-related disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, increased strain on the already struggling NHS and poor dietary habits locked in for a generation.

Parents can influence the sugar habits of the next generation, and this clear, evidence-based advice is welcomed to enable individuals to take responsibility for their own and their children’s health. But the abundance of cheap, powerfully marketed and heavily sugars-sweetened food and drink products represents a huge barrier to achieving the required level of change. The food and drinks industry has a crucial role to play and should step up its game to ensure the make-up and marketing of products do not continue to undermine public health gains. Government must listen to the experts and design legislation and incentives to tackle the growing threat from obviously harmful products.”

RSPH believes a number of steps could be taken to help achieve the goal of reduced child sugar intake:

  • Restrictions on the availability of sugars-sweetened drinks should be swiftly implemented, especially in health promoting settings such as leisure centres and hospitals
  • Marketing regulations should eliminate misleading messages around fruit juices and squashes, which are often aimed at children and can be confusing for parents
  • Making ‘diet’ or non-sweetened versions of popular soft drinks the default option in a wide range of settings such as cafes, bar and restaurants could provide a powerful nudge towards healthier choices
  • The workforce at all stages of the catering supply chain should be trained in minimising the use of dangerous sugars

Along with other health bodies, RSPH is urging government not to shy away from the new scientific consensus and to bring forward a raft of strong policies to ensure we protect the health of future generations.

Full press release on