Government urges food industry to cut 20% of sugar and reduce portion sizes

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 03 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5348
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Food retailers and restaurant chains in England will be expected to remove 20% of the sugar from food they sell and reduce portion sizes as part of government led efforts to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. Companies will also be publicly named and shamed if they fail to commit themselves to the reduction and reformulation programme, which was outlined in the government’s childhood obesity plan in August.1 2

In a meeting with industry representatives on 29 September, the importance of reducing sugar in foods commonly consumed by children was emphasised by health charities and campaign groups, the health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt, and Public Heath England’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie.

Although the government’s obesity strategy was criticised for not recommending legal powers to enforce the changes, the Times newspaper has quoted Hunt as saying that “doing nothing was not an option” and that companies’ actions would be publicly compared.3 Hunt said that he was determined to “shine a light” on individual companies’ performance, and he told firms at the meeting, “You want to be on the right side of this debate.”

All sectors of the food and drink industry will be expected to take part in the programme, including restaurants, cafes, pubs, and takeaway outlets.

Public Health England said that it would host further meetings with the industry to discuss reduction targets in a range of food, including breakfast cereals, confectionary, cakes, and puddings.

Selbie said, “It’s shocking that a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. We need to take action now to ensure more children do not continue down that path into adulthood and suffer serious health complications as a result.

“What’s in our food and drink clearly affects our health, and the food and drink industry can be a powerful influence on what we eat. We’re pleased to be leading together on what we believe will be the most extensive, formal, and structured programme of food reformulation anywhere in the world.”


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