Call to cut sugar in fizzy drinks after ‘shocking’ survey results

HEALTH officials should set targets for reducing sugar in fizzy drinks, experts have said after new research highlighted the “shockingly high and unnecessary” levels of sugar in cans of pop.

Action on Sugar said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt should set targets to reduce sugar levels in all food and drink products in a bid to stem the obesity epidemic that is sweeping Britain.

The group of health experts said people are drinking sugar “by the spoonful” and the first targets should be set for the levels of sugar in fizzy drinks. The call comes after analysis on 232 sugar-sweetened drinks from leading supermarkets found that three-quarters contain more sugar per can than is recommended for a whole day, a spokesman said.

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Some 79 per cent of the fizzy drinks examined contain six or more teaspoons of sugar per can – more than the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum daily limit for all sugar consumption, he said.

The study, conducted by Action on Sugar, found “huge variations” in the sugar content for very similar products.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “Added sugars are completely unnecessary in our diets and is strongly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as to dental caries – which remains a major problem for children and adults.

“We urge the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to set incremental targets for sugar reduction now – and to start with these sugary drinks.

“Replacing sugar with sweeteners is not the answer: we need to reduce overall sweetness so people’s tastes can adjust to having less sweet drinks.”

He added: “A similar approach has successfully reduced salt intake; people are consuming 15 per cent less salt than they were 10 years ago, and now prefer less salty foods.

“This policy is estimated to be saving 9,000 lives a year, plus healthcare savings of £1.5bn a year. It is now time to do the same for sugar.”

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, said: “People are drinking spoonfuls of sugar 
in their fizzy drinks. Even seemingly healthier options such as elderflower can be loaded with sugar.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “As a nation, we need to consume less sugar.

“We are working with the food and drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar in products and make healthier alternatives available.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “Blinded by political zeal, these campaigners appear to have missed the 60 per cent of soft drinks on the market which contain no added sugar.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, they have also ignored the evidence that shows obesity arises from an imbalance of calories consumed and calories expended and is not caused by one particular ingredient.”

He added: “Soft drinks manufacturers have led the way over many years in providing an increasing range of low and no calorie drinks.

“It’s worth remembering that Government figures show soft drinks contribute just three per cent of calories to the average diet.”