Britain’s pursuit of sugar reduction and healthier lifestyle

A sense of urgency prevails in the UK. We are not talking about Brexit. No, the sense of urgency has to do with a widespread epidemic. The villain is too much sugar in food. Every third pupil is expected to be overweight or has developed obesity before even leaving primary school. The UK government demands that the food industry reduce its sugar content by five per cent - every year for five years. They get help along by two British television personalities – Jamie Oliver and Michael Mosley – who do their share for a better lifestyle. About all of this write today’s columnist.

29 November 2019 •

We see them on tele­vi­sion, at the best broad­cast time. They offer knowl­edge and enter­tain­ment at the same time. I’m think­ing of the TV per­son­al­i­ties Michael Mosley and Jamie Oliver.

Two TV profiles

Michael Mosley is a British med­ical jour­nal­ist who, togeth­er with oth­er med­ical experts, is explor­ing dif­fer­ent ways to achieve bet­ter health. He is, among oth­er things, the orig­i­na­tor of the 5: 2 method that involves eat­ing a restrict­ed num­ber of calo­ries two days a week and a bal­anced diet the rest of the week.

Jamie Oliver, best known as the Naked Chef, is cel­e­brat­ed for his cook­ing based on sim­ple and pure ingre­di­ents. Today we can see Jamie Oliver trav­el around the world, often to help peo­ple go back to the kitchen and cook “real” food again. At home, he engages in the British children’s school lunch­es, which until now have not been the most nutri­tious. To eat nutri­tion­al­ly, there is hard­ly any room for fat­ty, salty and sug­ary fin­ished or semi-man­u­fac­tured meals.

Simple – no rocket science

Their tele­vi­sion pro­grams cap­ture mil­lions of view­ers. These are styl­ish, eas­i­ly acces­si­ble pro­duc­tions that can inspire per­son­al change. The tips are smart, but it’s not rock­et sci­ence the British gen­tle­men Oliver and Mosley serve us on the couch. They just show how easy it can be to change the eat­ing habits and behav­iours we keep for convenience.

A sense of urgency

At the same time, the UK gov­ern­ment, author­i­ties and inter­est groups are work­ing their way. They want to influ­ence the food indus­try to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the cri­sis the country’s pop­u­la­tion is facing.

There is a sense of urgency, that is, a feel­ing that the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fi­cult and that it is vital to bring about a change.

The cri­sis is about increas­ing­ly wide­spread obesity.

The problem of obesity must be solved

In August 2017, the Department of Health and Social Care, pub­lished a strong state­ment on Twitter:

20 per cent sugar reduction by 2020

In 2015, the British gov­ern­ment with the sup­port of agen­cies and orga­ni­za­tions, made vig­or­ous effort to stop the cri­sis. The goal was to reduce the amount of sug­ar in a num­ber of prod­ucts by 20 per cent by 2020. The reduc­tion should be 5 per cent per year over five years.

The 20 per cent tar­get was set to improve the sit­u­a­tion among British chil­dren, where obe­si­ty is increas­ing fast. One of three chil­dren in the UK is esti­mat­ed to be over­weight or have devel­oped obe­si­ty before leav­ing pri­ma­ry school.

The way out of the cri­sis is about reduc­ing the amount of sug­ar in a num­ber of pop­u­lar, eas­i­ly acces­si­ble and every­day products.

Slowly moving forward

Public Health England (PHE) does annu­al fol­low-ups to inves­ti­gate how the food indus­try lives up to the government’s required sug­ar reduc­tion. This year, the aver­age reduc­tion was only 2 per cent.

Products such as yoghurt, quark, break­fast cere­als and sweet top­pings like jam have reached the 5 per cent tar­get. In the UK, there is a spe­cial sug­ar tax on soft drinks, and it has had an effect. The sug­ar lev­els in sweet­ened bev­er­ages have been reduced by a total of 28.3 per cent per 100 ml. The cus­tomers haven’t react­ed neg­a­tive­ly to less sug­ary drinks, at least it appears so since the pur­chase of soft drinks has remained intact.

More sugar in sweets

At the same time, PHE has not­ed that both sweets and pud­dings have become sweet­er. Thus, more sug­ar is added to these products.

The cam­paign group Action on Sugar believes that more needs to be done by the food indus­try. This is espe­cial­ly true of sug­ar reduc­tion of cook­ies, choco­late - and the sweet­er puddings.

Next year we have the answer

Will the UK gov­ern­ment, with the sup­port of author­i­ties and orga­ni­za­tions, suc­ceed in its goal? Will the food indus­try find sim­ple sug­ar-reduc­ing solu­tions for its products?

At the end of 2020, we will know the answer.

But one thing is sure: In the mean­time, I will let me be inspired by the two British tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties Jamie Oliver and Michael Mosley, who do their share for a bet­ter lifestyle. I will be in good com­pa­ny; we are mil­lions of view­ers enjoy­ing the gentlemen’s shows.

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