Government tells parents to cut soft drinks from diets of under-11s

The soft drinks industry has responded to a report by Government scientific advisors calling for greater limits to the recommended daily amounts of sugar, while DoH body Health England has told parents to ban sugary drinks from their children's diets.

Fizzy drinks: one of the main culprits of fuelling excessive sugar consumption according to government advisors
Fizzy drinks: one of the main culprits of fuelling excessive sugar consumption according to government advisors

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)’s report on carbohydrates and health has been published today (17 July) and recommends that the amount of sugar consumed a day should be cut from the current recommended 10% of daily calories consumed to 5%.

But on the back of the report's findinds, the Department of Health's agency Public Health England has gone a step further and suggested that parents and families entirely cut sugary drinks from their children’s diets.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents the industry, said that the SACN report "should leave people in no doubt that sugars can be enjoyed safely as part of a varied and balanced diet", while the Advertising Association called on brands and agencies to use the power of advertising to work with government, and ISBA said that for many years the ad industry has "sought co-operation, not opposition, from medical campaigners to work constructively with government and business".

But the FDF warned that "demonising any one ingredient in the obesity debate isn’t helpful".

The SACN report is the result of the UK’s most wide-ranging study into sugar consumption and its impact on health.

Data used in the SACN report found that sugary drinks are the highest contributor of sugars to four to 10 year-olds, with 30% from soft drinks and fruit juice, 29% from biscuits, cakes and breakfast cereals, 22% from sweets, chocolate, table sugar, jams and other sweet spreads, and 12% from yoghurts, fromage frais, ice-cream and other dairy desserts.

Duncan Selbie, PHE’s chief executive, said: "One-fifth of 10 to 11 year olds are obese and almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and sugary drinks are a major contributor.

"There is nothing good about a sugary drink, particularly if you are under the age of 11, and we must work together to find ways to wean ourselves from the sugar habit."

Ian Twinn, ISBA's director of public affairs, said that a broader debate was needed and a campaigns that did not just focus on sugar but on "how much we eat, in what proportion and how we can live our lives in a healthy way".

He added: "There are no short cuts and no golden tickets. This is going to be a long and difficult journey, we look forward to playing a constructive part based on sound science, clear evidence and long term commitment."

Meanwhile, Ian Barber, the Advertising Association’s communications director, said: "If we can turn on advertising’s ability to persuade, tap into the reach and influence of our brands and media and above all, work with government, we have a recipe far more likely to improve the nation’s diet than bans and restrictions, which evidence shows have little or no effect.

"Our members are ready to offer that support."