Sugar Consumption February 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the amount of sugar in our drinks and food.

I appreciate and share your concerns about the high levels of sugar we consume. I attended a meeting organised by Jamie Oliver and Sustain on 19 October, which was hosted by the All Partly Parliamentary Group for Diabetes and the All Partly Parliamentary Group for Heart Disease, to show my support for the reduction of sugar in our food and drinks. We have seen more and more sugar built in to our food over time and we should not tolerate the amount of sugar that children are eating. 

Indeed, the latest report by the government’s advisory committee on nutrition showed that there is a pressing need for cutting the amount of sugar in people’s diet, and particularly in children’s. The necessity of reducing sugar intake is particularly crucial for my constituency as according to recent numbers published by the Nottingham City Council up to 30% of children living in Nottingham North are overweight and an average child currently consumes 3 times the maximum recommended amount of sugar. This is not surprising when a can of coca cola has 9 cubes of sugar but children should only have up to 7 cubes of sugar daily. Furthermore, it is estimated that 27% of residents aged 16 years and over are obese in Nottingham City compared with 24.5% in England.  Lower sugar intake would help to tackle the obesity epidemic which is especially bad in the most deprived areas.

It is shocking that we are living in a time where NHS spends £10 billion of public money a year treating the consequences of obesity, the Conservative Government is making drastic cuts, for example cutting tax credits for working families, and yet the question of public health is being ignored.

The Government should be doing more to clamp down on companies which produced food and drinks full of sugar, the worst of them holding more sugar per cup than the World Health Organisation recommends for the week. It is shameful that the food industry continues to spend billions in junk food advertising targeting children. Further, the Government must listen to experts from the British Medical Journal, which published a study confirming that the introduction of sugar tax in Mexico has led to reduce consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.

It is worrying that the Government is considering scrapping of free school meals, a policy the previous Labour Government piloted across the country. This policy helps to ensure that children have nutritious and balanced lunches. Its end would put more children in risk of eating unhealthy food more often.

Astonishingly, the most common reason for British primary school children needing to go into hospital is now for extraction of rotten teeth under anaesthetic; that represents 26,000 operations a year. That is why one of the main aims of the Rebalancing the Outer Estate Foundation, a charity I helped to established, is to ensure that every child below the age of 3, living in my patch, has a dental check.

Labour can already point to some big public health achievements, such as introduction of the smoking ban in public places. We will continue in campaigning for more policies which will benefit health of people across the UK, for example introduction of a mandatory limit on fat, salt and sugar in children’s food and empowering people with necessary information to make positive choices regarding their and their children diet.

Thank you again for writing me and sharing your views on this important issue.