Sugar content and calories in soft drinks to be downsized
24th January 2013
In the beginning months of 2012, the government created a new ‘Public Health Responsibility Deal’ pledge, aiming to reduce 5 billion calories from the nation’s daily diet. The primary reason for this is due to the fact that England’s obesity rates are amongst the worst across Europe and in the developed world. It is believed that over 60% of adults and a third of 10 and 11 year olds are overweight or obese, and clearly things need to change. Therefore, working together with some of the country’s biggest supermarkets, food manufacturers, caterers and food outlets, The Department of Health has decided to target alcohol, food, health at work and physical activity. This brings us to the news emerging this week that leading drinks manufacturers are starting to acknowledge the fact that high sugar content in their drinks is having a negative impact on obesity levels and that action is also needed to try and protect teeth from a premature decay. Soft drinks such as Lucozade, Ribena and Irn-Bru are now set to see their sugar content reduced by up to 10% - actions that maybe should have been considered long before now. Presently, a can of Irn-Bru contains about 6 teaspoons of sugar and if this is not horrifying enough, a 500ml bottle of Ribena contains about a staggering 52.6g of sugar (13 teaspoons) and 216 calories. Both drinks are produced by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline who released a statement via a spokeswoman, saying: “We have a responsibility to help people make healthier choices. We are saying this is a first step. It is the start of a journey.” The manufacturers of Irn-Bru, AG Barr, have also relented from government pressure and will cut the calorie content in their range of drinks by 5%. In addition, the Ribena ready-to-drink and Lucozade Energy drinks will see a drop  of sugar and calorie content by up to 10%, and J2O will launch two flavours in a new slim line can that contain 10% less calories than the regular 275ml bottle. Public Health Minister Anna Soubry was delighted with the news that the drinks giants had gotten on-board with the Responsibility Deal, seeing it as a step in the right direction for the long-term plan to tackle obesity. She said: “Being overweight and not eating well is bad for our health. To reverse the rising tide of obesity we have challenged the nation to reduce our calorie intake by 5 billion calories a day. On average that’s just 100 calories less a day per person. Today’s announcement will cut the calories and sugar by up to 10% in leading brands like Lucozade and Ribena. Through the Responsibility Deal we are already achieving real progress in helping people reduce the calories and salt in their diet. Overall, more than 480 companies including many leading high street brands have signed up to the Responsibility Deal. We are encouraged by the extra businesses which have signed up today but I want to see even more progress.  All in the food industry have a part to play and I now expect companies which are not yet taking action to come forward and make pledges.” There are now 31 companies that have joined the governmental scheme including Coca-Cola GB, PepsiCo, Britvic, Asda, Tesco, Co-Operative Food and Burton’s Biscuits. Unfortunately, not everybody welcomed the latest developments with a positive attitude. Charlie Powell of the Children's Food Campaign said that the newer version of the popular drinks would still merit a red traffic light according to Food Standards Agency guidelines. He said: “So they are swapping one red light for another, not exactly impressive. Lots of companies making tokenistic commitments does not constitute effective action to tackle obesity – it is regrettable that the Department of Health is pushing a smoke-and-mirrors strategy which puts public health behind commercial interests.”