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Curbing sugar intake

Food and drink manufacturers are yet again being urged to reduce the amount of sugar in their products after a new report shows that children are consuming the same amount of sugar as 20 chocolate chip cookies a day.

Now, the food and drink industry being urged to reformulate its products is nothing new, but the latest call comes off the back of new calculations from the Obesity Health Alliance.

The coalition of 39 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, which is calling on the industry to reduce the amount of sugar in food commonly eaten by children by 20 per cent by 2020, says 11-18 year olds eat on average 73.2g of sugar a day. As a chocolate chip biscuit contains 3.6g of sugar, children are consuming the equivialent of 20.3 biscuits a day in sugar.

The figures, calculated from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, also show that on average all age groups are consuming more free sugars than the government’s recommendation of 30 grams of free sugars a day for over 11 year olds and adults (seven sugar cubes). Free sugars are any sugars added to food or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

The highest intake is in 11-18 year olds, followed by 19-64 year olds (59.9 g/day) and then 4-10 year olds (53.5/day).

“By reducing the amount of sugar found in everyday products, industry could help make a real difference in improving the health of our children,” says Dr Modi Mwatsama, from the Obesity Health Alliance. “Industry has been successful in the past around reducing salt – let’s see the same with sugar.”

The Obesity Health Alliance concludes that no single solution will tackle obesity and other measures such as the soft drinks industry levy, but closing loopholes to protect children from junk food marketing are needed to help make them healthier.

Separately, a campaign by the British Heart Foundation to challenge consumers to give up chocolate in March begins today (1 March). Dechox aims to raise money for heart research by encouraging consumers to get sponsors for their efforts. Any sort of cocoa is off limits – be it chocolate bars, sweets, treats, biscuits, ice cream and cake.

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