Sales of chocolate and sweets have increased in the past year, according to a new report showing the government’s plan to take sugar out of the national diet is failing.

The announcement from Public Health England (PHE) found that while sugar levels in chocolates and sweets are relatively unchanged, sales increased 16 and seven per cent respectively between 2015 and 2019.

The annual update follows a commitment made in 2016 to encourage the food industry voluntarily to cut 20 per cent of sugar from key foods by the end of this year.

However, Wednesday’s data shows they have managed only a three per cent reduction, although good progress has been made on some products, such as breakfast cereals and yoghurts. 

Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Too much sugar is bad for our health and most of us are consuming more than we need, often without realising it.

“We’ve continued to see some progress in reducing sugar. Yet overall progress remains too slow. Faster and more robust action is needed to help us become healthier and lower the economic burden of obesity and preventable pressure on the NHS.

The mandatory sugary drinks tax – which is separate to the voluntary 20 per cent reduction target – is proving effective, with a 44 per cent fall in sugar.

Only “marginal progress” has been made in reducing sugar in products bought in the eating out of home sector, such as cakes and puddings purchased from restaurants or cafes, although calories in these products have declined.

Overall there has been hardly any change since 2015 in the calories in products likely to be consumed on a single occasion, for purchases made in shops and supermarkets. Puddings are mostly to blame, while sweets and biscuits have also seen a slight rise in calorie content.

Overall there has been a 2.6 per cent increase in the tonnes of sugar sold in the products studied.

The population also increased during this period, effectively meaning no change in the amount of sugar purchased per person.

Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Today’s report paints a frankly disappointing overall picture of sales of sugary products going up, rather than down – and it is children who will pay the price.

“While there is no silver bullet to reducing obesity rates, the Government must now clearly signal to industry that it is ready to take tougher regulatory and fiscal measures to reduce sugar.”

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