A leading British health nutritionist has called for a tax on confectionery to combat children’s intake of sugar amid growing warnings of serious implications for obesity and health.
Kawther Hashem, a researcher at Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London, told the Guardian newspaper: “Encouraging parents to halve their children’s sugar intake from everyday food and drink products is applaudable and we fully support the campaign.
“However, if we are to curb the UK’s escalating childhood obesity epidemic then the government must enforce more hard-hitting tactics such as mandatory uniform coloured coded labelling on front of packs, product reformulation with a 50% reduction in sugar across all products, a tax on confectionery and ensure that only healthy products are marketed and advertised.”
Public Health England (PHE) said 10 year olds in the UK have consumed 18 years’ worth of sugar, after launching a new healthy eating campaign under its Change4Life scheme, supporting families to cut back on sugar and to help tackle growing rates of childhood obesity.
While children’s sugar intakes have declined slightly in recent years, they are still consuming around eight excess sugar cubes each day, equivalent to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes per year, said PHE.
To help parents manage this, Change4Life is encouraging them to ‘Make a swap when you next shop’. Making simple everyday swaps can reduce children’s sugar intake from some products (yoghurts, drinks and breakfast cereals) by half – while giving them healthier versions of the foods and drinks they enjoy.
PHE recommends parents can try swapping:
- a higher-sugar yoghurt (for example split-pot) for a lower sugar one, to halve their sugar intake from 6 cubes of sugar to 3
- a sugary juice drink for a no-added sugar juice drink, to cut back from 2 cubes to half a cube
- a higher-sugar breakfast cereal (such as a frosted or chocolate cereal) for a lower sugar cereal, to cut back from 3 cubes to half a cube per bowl
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Children are consuming too much sugar, but parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years. To make this easier for busy families, Change4Life is offering a straightforward solution – by making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.”
Families are encouraged to look for the Change4Life ‘Good Choice’ badge in shops, download the free Food Scanner app or search Change4Life to help them find lower sugar options.