Lord Rennard: We need to reduce sugar consumption

Obesity is on the rise and more and more of us have too much sugar in our diet, Lord Rennard will tell the House of Lords today. The Government needs to act now to curb our appetite for sugar

Lord Rennard
Lord Rennard

Today I’ll be asking the Government what plans they have to help people reduce their sugar consumption. My noble friend Lord Sharkey is raising a related issue during Questions, though he’s particularly concerned with the rising levels of childhood obesity.

Last Tuesday, more than 60 organisations backed calls for a 20p-per-litre levy on soft drinks to be included in this year’s Budget. A duty on sugar-sweetened soft drinks may help significantly, although I fear that any new tax would be politically very difficult at the moment.  But it would be more welcome as part of a change that lowers taxation elsewhere.

There’s more government can do to help teach people about reducing their sugar intake. An easy change would be to make more manufacturers implement the new nutrition labelling scheme. A single front-of-pack food ‘traffic light’ labelling scheme – detailing the high, medium and low amounts of sugar, energy, fat and salt a product contains – is a straightforward way to help consumers make healthier choices if they want to.  Such information is currently obscure and difficult for many people to understand.

Perhaps more significantly, consumers could be given more choice and greater understanding about how much sugar they are consuming if the amount of sugar was limited in certain products such as breakfast cereals.  People could see how much sugar they are spooning on in addition to that already included by manufacturers so that they see for themselves (or their children) what the level of sugar is.

The marketing of sugary foods and drinks is also an area that needs urgent attention. Is it enough that Lucozade signs up to a calorie reduction pledge? Given the lack of a healthy lifestyles legacy post-London 2012, shouldn’t we also be talking about how the sponsorship of sporting events can be used to promote healthy eating? And wouldn’t it be wise for sugary food advertisements to be limited until after the 9pm watershed? This could be part of the next stage of the Department of Health’s Public Health Responsibility Deal.

Then there are schools, where access to food and drinks high in sugar can be totally unchecked, en route to school, from school and throughout the school day. I would like to see plans to ensure that food (both in the canteen and the vending machine) is subject to mandatory minimum nutritional standards in all schools – including academies and free schools.

One thing is abundantly clear: obesity rates are on the rise and more and more of us have too much sugar in our diet, although fat and lack of exercise are also part of the problem.  The Government needs to act now, to help curb our appetite for sugar, encourage healthier eating and help prevent the health problems including diabetes that are linked to unhealthy diets, high in fat, salt and sugar.

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.


4 thoughts on “Lord Rennard: We need to reduce sugar consumption”

  1. There’s also a problem with the drinks and other products which are sweetened with aspartame and other artificial, low calorie chemicals. They maintain our “sweet tooth” and do nothing to help us move towards a healthier lifestyle. I don’t know the answer, but it’s more complex than people knowing how much sugar is in a product. That’s not saying “Don’t do anything”, just saying that we need a multi-pronged approach.

  2. My only problem with this is that it doesn’t include fruit juices and sports drinks which are just as bad for you as a can of coke. There is another problem, there is no Guideline Daily Amount of how much sugar you can eat. Also different sugars are metabolised by the body very differently.
    We all have a vague understanding of how glucose is metabolised but not very much of an idea how fructose is metabolised.
    The science suggests that fructose is metabolised in a much more similar way to ethanol (alcohol) than it is like glucose. Yet again, there is no guideline daily amount of how much glucose we can eat or how much fructose we can eat.
    Fructose is exactly half of sucrose(table sugar) and more than half in some other sugars that are added by the food industry.

  3. Nic Prigg, I think that you should exclude fruit juices which are just squeezed or pulped fruit without extra sweetening. Included, at the top of the list, should be breakfast cereals. Trying to find one which is not hyper-sweetened, it’s not just CoCo Pops, is a difficult business. Aimed at children, these are particularly damaging because they are usually eaten after brushing teeth.
    You will have an uphill struggle with this, Chris, because the international sugar lobby is remarkably strong and willing to spend huge amounts of money to protect their interests. Witness the efforts in the 1960’s to classify saccharine as a carcinogen: iit paid for research which showed that if you inject a mouse with 25% of its body weight of saccharine it has a slightly higher than normal risk of getting cancer! This was refuted by the FDA (in the USA) which pointed out that injecting a mouse with 25% water would kill it.
    I wish you luck but don’t forget those sources of sugar in the diet which are less obvious but loom large nonetheless.
    When epidemiological correlations have been done it is found that there is as stronger correlation between sugar consumption and heart disease than there is between saturated fats and heart disease. Since this does not fit with current theories the inconvenient facts are overlooked.

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