Kids to swap chocolate with healthier snacks under new Public Health England guidelines

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020.  Photo: ©GettyImages/Renato Arap
PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020. Photo: ©GettyImages/Renato Arap

Related tags Obesity Nutrition Public health

Public Health England (PHE) has launched ‘Change4Life’ Campaign to urge children to take a maximum of two 100-calorie snacks per day.

The guideline would effectively rule out consumption of many popular branded chocolate bars and snacks, which often contain more than 200 calories. 

The campaign also helps encourage parents to purchase healthier snacks than the ones they currently buy for their children, according to PHE.

“Parents can get money-off vouchers from Change4Life to help them try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower-sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar,”​ said UK officials.

“Each year, children are consuming almost 400 biscuits; more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries; around 100 portions of sweets; nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams,” ​said PHE.

“With a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, tackling obesity requires wider action and is not just limited to individual efforts from parents.”

“[We are] working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020, with work to reduce calories due to start in 2018,” ​added PHE.

Under the new guidelines, many of the snacks children consume regularly are considered high in sugar and calories, including Mars’ single-serve chocolates that contain 229 calories each, even though it reduced the calorie content from the original 260 calories per bar a few years ago.

Mars did not immediately comment on whether it would reformulate its products in the near future. In North America, the company recently set a 200-calorie cap​ for its new products such as goodnessknows.

Meanwhile, an individual Cadbury Dairy Milk bar (45g) contains 240 calories, which would also put it above the 100 calorie limit.

Other lesser-than-healthy snacks include a pack of crisps that contains around 190 calories, an ice-cream containing 175 calories, and a pastry (270 calories), PHE pointed out.

‘Mandatory product reformulation’ needed

Actions on Sugar, a campaign group set up by medical professionals behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH)​ four years ago, said “mandatory product reformulation”​ is one of the strategies needed to tackle children’s high daily sugar consumption.

“Tactics [also] need to include… clear front of pack color coded labeling and a ban on promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar as well as tighter restrictions on marketing and advertising which hugely influence children’s food and drink preferences,”​ said Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Marry University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar.

"The findings about children’s daily sugar intake are shocking and need to be a stark reminder to the government that we urgently need a revised and robust childhood obesity strategy to help tackle the country’s escalating obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic,”​ said MacGregor. “Not to mention the cost of treating tooth decay.”

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