Public health experts have suggested that we all need to look at our increasing rates of sugar consumption. Concerning figures from Public Health England (PHE), state that the average 10 year old child is consuming more sugar than is recommended for an 18 year old. These figures are based on their total sugar consumption from the age of two, and show that children consume an excess of eight sugar cubes a day. As such, Dr Alison Tedstone, a chief nutritionist from PHE has suggested that there may be a need for the Government to introduce a sugar tax on puddings. PHE also suggests that families need to cut back on sugar to help tackle obesity, tooth decay and other illnesses linked to excess sugar.
The Current Sugar Tax
A sugar tax was introduced that applies to fizzy drinks, in April 2018. It is a levy put on drinks manufacturers to crack down on high sugar levels in soft drinks. Companies are now taxed according to the sugar content of their products. Pure fruit juices and milk based drinks are not included in the sugar tax as they do not carry added sugar and have a high calcium content respectively. Many manufactures have reduced the sugar content in their products to avoid the levy. Is it now time for a similar tax to be applied to puddings, cakes, sweets and biscuits?
Is it Time to Tax our Puddings?
Puddings are currently included in a separate initiative by PHE, which encourages manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their products voluntarily. The programme was launched in 2017 and is hoped to reduce the sugar content of popular foods by one fifth by 2020. Puddings, cereals and yoghurts are including in the voluntary programme. However, should a sugar tax on sweets and puddings be mandatory because a voluntary sugar reduction may not combat the illnesses linked to excess sugar alone. Are more taxes on unhealthy products required as it is not believed that the manufactures can be relied on to act voluntarily?
How Much Sugar do we Currently Consume?
It is recommended that we consume no more than 5% of our calories from free sugars. Unfortunately, all age groups are consuming more than the recommended amount of sugar according to Government guidelines. Teenagers fare particularly badly as they are consuming more than three times their recommended amount. A high level of sugar consumption is linked to obesity and more than one in five children are currently overweight or obese by the time they start primary school. By the time children reach senior school this figure rises to one in three. The recommended daily maximum sugar consumption for children is shown in the table below:
Age Max. Sugar Cube Consumption Max. Sugar Consumption in Grams
4-6 years 5 19g
7-10 years 6 24g
11+ years 7 30g
However, results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, show that UK children are consuming around 13 cubes or 52g of sugar a day. Half of the sugar in children’s diets comes from biscuits, cakes, higher-sugar yoghurt, puddings, sugary drinks, sugary breakfast cereals and sweets.
How Can Consumers Reduce the Amount of Free Sugar Consumed?
Choosing lower-sugar foods and drinks can make a difference. Consumers need to check the labels on packaging to judge if products are high or low in sugar, in particular parents need to take action to prevent their children consuming too much free sugar. Making changes in the products we buy could remove around 2,500 sugar cubes per year from a child’s diet. Furthermore, making healthier choices regarding our puddings consumption to include lower-sugar custards, malt loaf, rice puddings and sugar-free products will further reduce free sugar consumption. Simple choices to reduce free sugar consumption include:
• Low sugar yoghurt
• No added sugar juice drink
• Shredded wholegrain cereal
• No added sugar milkshake
• Malt loaf
• Lower sugar rice pudding
Puddings at School
One area where it is difficult for parents to monitor what their children are consuming is at school. With the introduction of free school meals in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, many parents were excited and eager at the prospect of their children getting a healthy cooked meal at school. However, the amount of sugar and calories our school children are consuming are, in some cases, not following the latest nutritional guidelines.
In recent years the guidelines for children’s nutrition have changed.
- The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Carbohydrate and Health report advises that 4 to 6 years olds should have no more than 19 grams of free sugars per day, those aged 7 to 10 years no more than 24 grams and children aged 11 years and older no more than 30 grams. Many school catering companies have not reduced their portion sizes or food choices to reflective this.
- The calorie reduction report highlighting the scale of childhood obesity and the need to reflect on the food environment and calorie exposures. This is where we now need to re-evaluate and update school menus with regard to portion sizes that are child appropriate.
- Public Health England states that children should not be having any more than two refined 100-calorie snacks.
Constantly battling with an obesogenic environment, it is not only at home where changes need to be made, but also in schools, countrywide. Energy-dense and sugary puddings should be cut from the school menus and plain yoghurt and fruit served instead. Children will then be getting nutritious calories instead of surplus energy and sugar.
Parents can take responsibility themselves to reduce the amount of free sugar consumed by their families, but is it now a time for the Government to step in and introduce a pudding tax on manufactures who are failing to reduce the amount of sugar in their products? In addition, are new guidelines required for school meal providers to follow to help in the bid to reduce childhood obesity, tooth decay and other illnesses associated with eating too much sugar? What do you think? Can a pudding tax work in a similar way to the sugar tax on soft drinks?