Tomorrow’s Sugar in Food and Drinks (Targets, Labelling and Advertising) Bill, presented by Geraint Davies MP would reverse escalating NHS costs due to obesity and diabetes by letting consumers know many teaspoons of sugar are in their food so they can make informed choices.
The bill comes two days after celebrity chief and health food campaigning Jamie Oliver appeared at a House of Commons Select Committee advocating, among other things, visible teaspoon sugar content on sugary drinks.
Hidden sugar in processed food and drinks is a major cause of escalating health costs from obesity. The World Health Organisation recommended daily limit of sugar is 5% of calories equivalent to 9 teaspoons for men – or a can of Coke - and 6 for women – or a light yoghurt.
Obesity is a greater burden on the UK economy than armed violence, war and terrorism costing us £47bn a year according to McKinsey. Type 2 diabetes is already costing NHS England £9bn and NHS Wales £0.5bn. Obesity rates in Britain have increased to the second highest in Europe (after Hungary) and two thirds of people are either overweight (42% men & 32% women) or obese.
Said Geraint Davies MP “People in Britain consume twice the recommended daily limit for sugar of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 for women with teenagers consuming three times that level. The Bill requires products to have sugar content labelled in teaspoons thereby enabling consumers to make informed choices so they can reduce their weight and reduce the nation’s health costs.
“Once sugar content is expressed in teaspoons in products and people know how what they are eating manufacturers will compete to reduce sugar content instead of increasing it.
“I first introduced this Bill last July during the previous parliament and have reintroduced it following Jamie Oliver’s evidence at the Health Affairs Select Committee, so the Government can’t make feeble excuses for their inaction.
“I am pleased that Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Manifesto includes visible sugar labelling in teaspoons on sugary drinks.
“By giving people the power to make informed choices about their diet, so reducing obesity and diabetes, the Bill will reduce the long term costs of the NHS making it more sustainable.
“Making multi-billion pound savings to the NHS by allowing the public to make informed choices is far better than simply accepting the rising costs of obesity and diabetes and arguing about how to find the money.”
(credit: Jamie Oliver)
The Bill also prevents high sugar products being promoted as low fat products and requires the Government to publish targets for the total amount of sugar consumed in the UK.
Said Geraint Davies “products which are high in sugar and make you fat shouldn’t be promoted as low fat and masquerade as healthy. As with Carbon Targets the Government should work to reduce overall sugar consumption from where we are to levels that are healthy and sustainable for the NHS and the UK economy.”
Finally, the sugar industry argues that it is being unfairly singled out and that all that matters is overall calorie intake and exercise. There is growing evidence, however, that obesity is linked not only to total calorie intake but also directly to the amount of calories consumed as sugar.
Professor Robert Lustig whose work has contributed to our understanding of this link makes the following comments: "The food industry argues that a calorie is a calorie, a sugar is a sugar, and if you're fat it's your fault. But the science says that the excess sugar placed in our food is toxic and addictive. How can we exercise personal responsibility when the information is kept from us? Mr. Davies has introduced a rational proposal to limit this practice, to reduce the consumption of unnecessary sugar, and to educate the populace as to what they are consuming so that they can make informed choices"
During the House of Commons select committee on Monday Jamie Oliver handed out bottled of fizzy drinks to members of the committee with the number of teaspoons in each product on the Label.
Jamie Oliver said “I do think that tiny bit of branding is powerful.
“I am talking about empowering parents that are busy. I just stuck this on but I believe that Britain should have this.
“I am massively passionate that British people, if given clear information, make good choices. Not all the time, but a lot."