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Global compaign takes aim at high sugar foods and beverages

It has been set up by the team behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which has pushed for cuts to salt intake since the 1990s. The new group aims to help people avoid “hidden sugars” and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

It believes a 20% to 30% reduction in three to five years is within reach.

Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar bit by bit so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.

“Sugar is the new tobacco,” said Professor Simon Capewell from the University of Liverpool. “Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focussed on profit not health.”

Speaking with FoodNavigator, Action on Salt chairman Professor Graham MacGregor said: “We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide,” said MacGregor. “We must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks.”

“This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods.” 

The Action on Sugar group believes that reducing this ‘hidden’ sugar in foods can go a long way towards battling obesity and other non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes – both of which have been linked to increased consumption of sugar and additional calories.

Indeed, MacGregor told us that an estimated 30% reduction in added sugars could result in a reduction in calorie intake of 70 to 100 calories per day – enough to halt and possibly reverse global obesity trends.

Industry backlash

Commenting on the formation of the group, Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science & health at the Food and Drink Federation said that sugars – or any other nutrient – consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet were not a cause of obesity.

“Food and drink producers in the UK have taken action to reduce salt and saturated fat in the diet, in line with robust evidence linking excessive consumption of these nutrients with a negative impact on health,” she said….. Read more

COMMENT: From Vlevet Glove, Iron Fist blog…

This week saw Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) morph into Action on Sugar. Perhaps this was a recognition that the panic over salt “has little basis in science” and the real money now lies in the anti-sugar crusade. In a few years they will be called Action on Cheese.

Fortunately for Action on Sugar, their new enemy is also a white crystal so they can keep most of their images. All they need is a web designer to delete the word ‘salt’ and replace it with ‘sugar’.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, Action on Sugar got proceedings underway with a frenzied media blitz that revolved around their claim that “sugar is the new tobacco”. Within 24 hours, scientists were lining up to criticise this absurd hyperbole—calling it “nuts”, “inaccurate” and “quite crazy”—but the damage had been done and Aseem Malhotra (for it is he) had got his smug little face on television countless times…

COMMENT: So what if sugary food has no nutritional value? It tastes nice

Strikingly, every member of the miserabilist anti-sugar lobby says the same thing: sugar has no nutritional value. “Unlike fat and protein, refined sugars offer no nutritional value”, says one expert. Sugar is “nutritionally bankrupt”, says a food writer who wants us to declare war on “the sweet madness of excess sugar consumption”.

Sugar has “no nutritional value whatsoever”, says one report. To which the only reasonable response is: so what? Who cares? What does it matter if sugar is nutritionally pointless and a provider of “empty calories”? Does every foodstuff we eat, and every activity we carry out, have to have some nutritional or moral worth?…. writes Brendan O’Neill is editor of the online magazine spiked and columnist for the Big Issue in London.