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Restaurant chains lagging behind in sugar reduction programme


In 2017, as part of the Government’s Obesity Plan, Public Health England challenged the food industry to reduce the level of sugar in a range of food categories by 20% by 2020. Industry was also challenged to achieve a 5% reduction in the first year of the programme.

Today, (Tuesday 22 May 2018) Public Health England has released figures on the first year of the sugar reduction programme:

  • There have been reductions in sugar levels in only 5 out of the 8 food categories.
  • For retailers own-brand and manufacturer branded products there has been a 2% reduction in total sugar per 100g – far short of the target 5%.
  • For the out of home sector, including restaurant chains, the average sugar content of puddings has not been reduced, it has actually increased; calories remain substantially larger than shop-sold equivalent products.
  • It has not been possible to report properly on progress by the out of home sector, as insufficient data has been made available by the sector.

Rob Percival, Food for Life Policy and Campaigns Manager commented: 

Portion sizes in restaurant chains are evidently out of control. Public Health England’s figures show that sugar in puddings in restaurants has actually increased since the sugar reduction programme began, while calories remains twice as high as in equivalent products sold by retailers. The Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign has been calling on chains to offer puddings and drinks in an appropriate portion size for the past year, and ten chains have stepped up and made notable reductions. It’s a shame that Public Health England’s efforts haven’t been as fruitful.

“Government must now start to consider stronger measures to bring the out of home sector into line. Public Health England has admitted it can’t even report properly on what restaurant chains are doing because they’re not making sufficient data available – the sector is making a mockery of this voluntary approach. The updated Obesity Plan should make clear that regulatory approaches will be taken unless the sector steps up to the plate and prioritises child health – this means offering menus made with fresh and minimally processed ingredients, and sugary treats served in an appropriate portion size.”

You can read more about our Out to Lunch campaign here.