Sugar consumption in England has risen despite a reduction of sugar in foods such as cereals and yoghurts following the sugar tax, new Public Health England (PHE) figures show.
The amount of sugar in soft drinks dropped by 28.8% between 2015 and 2018, surpassing the voluntary food industry target of 20%.
However, the overall reduction in average sugar content in the same time period fell short at 2.9% – and the total tonnes of sugar we buy in shops has actually gone up by 2.6%.
The PHE report said: ‘Overall the total tonnes of sugar sold in foods included in the reformulation programme from the in-home sector has increased by 2.6% between 2015 and 2018 (excluding cakes and morning goods).’
This jump – from 722,976 to 741,700 tonnes of sugar – represents a 0.5% increase in sugar purchased per person of the foods targeted in the programme, which includes cakes, puddings and sweets.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said the progress from the food industry was ‘encouraging’.
Breakfast cereals saw a 8.5% drop in sugar content, while the sugar reduction in yoghurt (10.3%) was also significant.
However, the sugar contents of puddings rose 0.5% and sweets went up 0.6%, while the sugar reduction in chocolate (0.3%), biscuits (0.6%) and ice cream (0.4%) was only slight.
Though some food categories show a faster sugar reduction than others, ‘this is realistic at this early stage,’ Mr Selbie added.
British Medical Association board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar argued that there needs to be ‘mandatory measures to reduce the amount of sugar in our food and drink’.
She continued: ‘This will be by far the most effective means of reducing the public’s sugar consumption and help stem the growing obesity crisis.
‘The Government has a responsibility to follow through on its commitments to introduce a 9pm watershed on advertising high sugar foods and place further restrictions on the promotion of unhealthy food and drink.
‘Healthier options should not always mean more expensive options; measures such as taxation on unhealthier products to subsidise healthier are all part of the wider push that is needed.’
Prime minister Boris Johnson has questioned the so-called ‘sin tax’ and said he wants to see a review of its effectiveness.