Today I presented the Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill in parliament. The Bill moves beyond the Childhood Obesity Strategy published last month with recommendations to tackle the health risks and rising costs to the nation from obesity.
The Bill calls on the Government to set targets for sugar content, to label how many teaspoons of added sugar is in food so consumers can make informed choices, and to extend the advertising ban on high sugar content foods until after the 9pm watershed.
Added sugar in processed food and drinks is a major cause of obesity. The World Health Organisation recommends that added sugar should make up no more than 5% of our daily food intake which is equivalent to just 9 teaspoons for men (a can of coke) and 6 for women (a light yoghurt) but on average children and adults in the UK are consuming twice that amount, with teenagers consuming three times the recommended level. This has a dramatic effect on the health of the nation with two thirds people in the UK classified overweight or obese, including a third of all children leaving primary school.
Talking to stakeholders from across the food industry, government and the third sector there is a gathering momentum to take action on sugar.
Yesterday Jamie Oliver condemned the August publication of the Government’s low-key Childhood Obesity strategy was ‘failing our children’.
I agree with Jamie Oliver that Theresa May has failed to tackle the root causes of obesity to protect the next generation from shortened lives due to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I know that he, along with parents and health professionals, will support the proposals in my Bill to require labelling of sugar content in teaspoons to allow consumers to make informed choices to maintain a healthy diet, and to increase the restrictions on advertising of high sugar content ‘junk’ foods until after the watershed to prevent children from being exposed to harmful advertising whilst watching family programmes.
I will continue to push for stricter advertising and greater transparency from manufacturers to drive a reduction in the sugar content in food products, and to help consumers choose a healthier diet and a safer future. Sugar labelled in spoonfuls is simple to understand so consumers can navigate towards a healthier diet and producers are incentivised to compete on adding less instead of more sugar.