The move follows today’s publication of PHE’s latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which has revealed that four- to 10-year-olds are consuming double the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
PHE will lead the programme to challenge food and drink manufacturers, retailers and the ‘out of home’ sector – such as restaurants, cafes and takeaways – to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.
The programme will apply to the foods that contribute the most to children’s sugar intakes, including those aimed at babies and infants.
‘It’s an ambitious programme, a world first, and will be a significant step on the road to reducing child obesity levels’, commented Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE.
Currently, more than a third of children leaving primary school and almost two out of three adults are overweight or obese, raising their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and certain forms of cancers.
Dietary requirements not met
The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that despite a decrease in the consumption of the number of sugary drinks by four- to 10-year olds, sugar consumption within this group is more than double the recommended allowance.
Children aged four to 10 years drank 100ml of sugary drinks on average in 2012-2014, a decrease from 130ml per day in 2008-20110.
However, sugar makes up 13% of children’s daily calorie intake, while the official recommendation is to limit it to no more than 5%.
Teenagers continue to consume three times the official recommendation for sugar (15%) and adults over twice as much (12%).
The survey also revealed that the UK population as a whole is consuming more than the recommended daily intake of saturated fat and below the recommended intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Average saturated fat intake for adults aged 19-64 is 12.7% of daily calorie intake, above the 11% recommendation.
The same age group consume on average four portions of fruit and vegetables per day, whilst older adults, aged 65 and over, consume 4.2 portions and children aged 11-18 consume 2.8 portions per day.
Just 27% of adults, 35% of older adults and 8% of 11- to 18-year-olds meet the ‘five a day’ recommendation for fruit and vegetables.
The data underlines PHE’s call for the population to follow a healthy, balanced diet, based on the new Eatwell Guide, which includes eating a minimum of five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day and increasing consumption of oily fish and fibre.
‘This data provides compelling evidence that we all need to eat more fruit, veg, fibre and oily fish and cut back on sugar, salt and saturated fat to improve our health’, explained Dr Tedstone.
‘While it is encouraging that young children are having fewer sugary drinks, they still have far too much sugar in their diet overall, along with teenagers and adults.’
PHE says that following a healthy, balanced diet and reducing calories can help reduce obesity and the economic and social burden of life-threatening diseases.