Public Health England to publicly scrutinise businesses slow on sugar reduction

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Obesity action: a majority of customers support the Government working with the food industry to reduce sugar and calories, according to a new survey
Obesity action: a majority of customers support the Government working with the food industry to reduce sugar and calories, according to a new survey

Related tags: Sugar, Government

Nine in 10 people support collaborative efforts between the Government and food industry to make food and drink healthier, a survey has found.

The majority of customers support collective endeavours to reduce obesity, according to a Public Health England (PHE) survey carried out by Ipsos MORI.

Research examined attitudes towards calorie and sugar reduction in the eating-out sector, supermarkets and among manufacturers.

The survey found customers supported reduction even for ‘treat’​ foods consumed out-of-home.

Consultations into ending the sale of energy drinks to children and introducing compulsory calorie labelling​ for pubs are already underway.

Obesity concerns

Respondents cited concerns about obesity placing pressure on the NHS, with almost eight in 10 (79%) saying they felt obesity had a negative impact on the service.

Out of the 1,000 people surveyed, 39% said they thought obesity was the biggest health concern for the UK population.

Health secretary Matt Hancock outlined a plan to focus on preventing costly health problems this month​, including an ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE, said: “Obesity is the pandemic of modern times.

“Customers are saying they want faster progress from the food industry, and in particular, those businesses that have taken little or no action.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said severe obesity in 10 to 11-year-olds was at its highest level.

“Plans to improve the nation’s diet are often described as ‘nanny state’ interference, but it’s clear people want healthier food and they expect the industry to play their full part in this,” she said.

Public scrutiny 

PHE will publicly report businesses that do not make progress on sugar reduction in 2019, Selbie said.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality (UKH) said pubs and restaurants shared this belief and have worked to make menus healthier.

“Hospitality businesses share the public’s support for calorie and sugar reduction and promoting healthy attitudes to food and drink,” Nicholls said.

“This is evidenced by the considerable, ongoing, efforts that businesses have made to reduce calories on menus and to provide more choice and transparency for customers.

UKH has previously raised concerns that Government health measures may unfairly damage hospitality businesses.

Nicholls added: “Crucially, any Government measures to tackle obesity must be proportionate, workable and affordable for businesses.

“Furthermore, measures ought also to be matched with credible actions to promote personal responsibility for healthy lifestyles.”

Related topics: News, Legislation

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