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UK leads European-wide initiative to reduce sugar and calorie intake in food




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The UK has been chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead the new Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network to take global action on sugar and calorie reduction.

Today (Monday, September 13) at the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty announced the formation of a network to work with countries across Europe to reduce sugar and calorie intake. WHO’s EU region covers around 50 countries and is much broader in scope than the European Commission covers.

The UK has agreed to use its world-leading expertise in domestic sugar and calorie reduction to support its European neighbors. By reducing the sugar content of HFSS (Products High in Fat, Salt and Sugar) together with the food and beverage industry, we will make our products healthier and help tackle obesity rates worldwide.

Collective action to cut sugar and calories in a global marketplace increasingly served by the same international companies will spur the food industry to act bigger and faster. Network member countries share their learning and technical expertise to encourage manufacturers to restructure their products by reducing the amount of sugar, or calories, in food and beverages to create healthier products.

As part of the Tackling Obesity strategy announced last year, the network will support the UK government’s key existing commitments to sugar and calorie reduction programs and will advance the fight against obesity worldwide. This program challenges the food industry across the UK to reduce sugar and calories in the foods most commonly consumed by children. The UK has made good progress with its sugar reduction program, which cuts sugar by 13% in breakfast cereals, yogurt and fromage fries.

Launched on 1 October, the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities of the Department of Health and Social Cares is helping the nation by tackling obesity, improving mental health and promoting physical activity. It will lead national efforts to improve and raise standards of health.

Health and Social Services Minister Sajid Javid said:

It is a testament to the success of our pioneering work in helping people eat healthier in the UK and we have been chosen to lead this program.

We will work closely with our European partners to help the food industry reduce obesity by reducing the sugar and calories in its products, relieve pressure on health care and increase resilience against COVID-19 and all future infectious diseases.

Today’s announcement puts the ambitions of UK Global Britain into action, and the UK is working with member states to drive collective action to impact Europe and the world in tackling obesity.

There is evidence that people living with obesity are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. By taking steps to reduce sugar and calories in food and beverages, this network will address the rising global obesity rate as well as increase global resilience against COVID-19 and future epidemics.

Public Health Secretary Joe Churchill said:

Obesity is a global problem and urgent action must be taken to help people live healthier lives. This starts with the foods and drinks we consume to reduce the unhealthy factors.

Following strong action through our Healthy Weight Strategy, I am pleased that the UK is leading this international network to reshape its products and promote healthier food choices for people across Europe.

The WHO Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will be launched in the spring of 2022 and the WHO EU will contact Member States requesting membership. The WHO EU region covers around 50 countries, meaning that it covers a much broader range beyond the European Commission’s framework of action.




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