Aims: To contribute evidence and make recommendations to assist in achieving free sugars reduction, with due consideration to the broader picture of weight management and dietary quality.
Methods: An expert workshop in July 2016 addressed options outlined in the Public Health England report 'Sugar reduction: The evidence for action' that related directly to the food industry. Panel members contributed expertise in food technology, public heath nutrition, marketing, communications, psychology and behaviour. Recommendations were directed towards reformulation, reduced portion sizes, labelling and consumer education. These were evaluated based on their feasibility, likely consumer acceptability, efficacy and cost.
Results: The panel agreed that the 5% target for energy from free sugars is unlikely to be achievable by the UK population in the near future, but a gradual reduction from average current level of intake is feasible. Progress requires collaborations between government, food industry, non-government organisations, health professionals, educators and consumers. Reformulation should start with the main contributors of free sugars in the diet, prioritising those products high in free sugars and relatively low in micronutrients. There is most potential for replacing free sugars in beverages using high-potency sweeteners and possibly via gradual reduction in sweetness levels. However, reformulation alone, with its inherent practical difficulties, will not achieve the desired reduction in free sugars. Food manufacturers and the out-of-home sector can help consumers by providing smaller portions. Labelling of free sugars would extend choice and encourage reformulation; however, government needs to assist industry by addressing current analytical and regulatory problems. There are also opportunities for multi-agency collaboration to develop tools/communications based on the Eatwell Guide, to help consumers understand the principles of a varied, healthy, balanced diet.
Conclusion: Multiple strategies will be required to achieve a reduction in free sugars intake to attain the 5% energy target. The panel produced consensus statements with recommendations as to how this might be achieved.
Keywords: industry; labelling; portion; reduction; reformulation; sugar.