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
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.