The first set of government figures from Public Health England (PHE) have shown pubs need to do more to reduce sugar in dishes.

The body challenged the eating out sector, including pubs, to reduce sugar by 20 per cent from a range of products – with an aim for a five per cent reduction in the first year – as part of its childhood obesity reduction drive.

It found that sugar levels were generally the same across all areas, but the eating out sector had portion sizes that were 'substantially larger' – often more than double those of retailers and manufacturers.

The programme works by encouraging businesses to look at their top selling products within 10 categories that contribute the most sugar to kids.

Pubs are encouraged to do this by either reducing portions sizes, reformulating the dish, or incentivising children to eat other lower calorie and sugar options on menus.

Unfortunately, due to what it described as 'limitations in data', the PHE was not able to report on the eating out sector alone as part of its assessment on sugar reduction. Instead, it said further reporting would be presented next year.

The study did find spreads and sauces had met and exceeded the initial five per cent reduction ambition – as well as ice creams and lollies. But the first set of data against a 2015 baseline revealed only a two per cent on average reduction in sugar content.

Progress was also given on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy which revealed sugar had been reduced by 11 per cent and calories per portion down by six per cent. It also showed people were buying more drinks below the Levy cut-off of 5g per 100g.

It has also created guidelines on juice and milk-based drinks for children – currently still exempt from the Levy. Fruit juice accounts for 10 per cent of sugar consumed by children each day and one 150ml portion only counts as 1 of the 5 a day under the fruit and vegetable guidance.

 

  • Reduce sugar in juice-based drinks by 5 per cent
  • All juice-based drinks – including blended juices and smoothies – to be reduced to 150 calories
  • Reduce sugar in milk based drinks by 20 per cent and portions to 300 calories.

 

Steve Brine, public health minister, said: "We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We are monitoring progress closely and have not ruled out taking further action."

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE, said: "Tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular, those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action."