Sugar Awareness Week 2017: Guest Blog – what’s the deal?

Sugar Awareness Week 2017: Guest Blog – what’s the deal?



Jenny Rosborough is a Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar. This year’s Sugar Awareness Week (30th October – 5th November) provides an opportunity to reflect on progress made and highlight actions which must be taken next to tackle obesity…  


The government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy, due to be implemented from April next year, has already resulted in significant reductions in sugar in soft drinks. We now have a national sugar reduction programme, led by Public Health England (PHE), whereby companies have been asked to achieve a 20% sugar reduction in the nine food categories which contribute the most sugar to children’s diets by 2020. And PHE are due to launch an excess calorie reduction programme, alongside sugar, in the new year – which is a great opportunity for companies to reduce the energy density of their higher calorie products, whilst improving the overall nutritional density.

However, Theresa May’s government is yet to demonstrate that they are really serious about protecting the nation’s health, having shied away from making any commitment to ensure retailers reduce price promotions on foods and drinks high in sugar, salt and saturated fat – despite their impact on food choice and purchasing and the fact that research shows supermarkets have more promotions on less healthy food and drink[i].

Not only does that evidence indicate that higher sugar food and drink items are both more likely to be promoted and more deeply promoted, but that price promotions increase overall take home food and drink volumes. For example, there is little evidence that increased purchasing of one category leads buyers to make a compensatory reduction in other higher sugar categories[ii].

In addition to a greater risk of tooth decay, evidence shows that excess consumption of sugars is associated with increased energy (calorie) intake (compared to other sources of energy) and that the consumption of sugars-sweetened drinks is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes[iii]. Almost 60% of women and 70% of men are above a healthy weight[iv] and there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing 11 different types of cancer.[v]

This Sugar Awareness Week we are urging retailers to sell high sugar products responsibly by excluding them from promotions such as meal deals and asking the government to re-visit the childhood obesity plan. It’s time to get tougher.

New research released today by Action on Sugar found that:

  • Lunchtime meal deal combinations can contain up to 30tsps of ‘free’ sugars – an adults maximum is 7tsps.
  • Over a working week this could equate to more than 1lb bag of sugar
  • Almost all retailers have more high sugar drinks as part of meal deal promotions than low sugar drinks.

To read the full press release, follow this link.

Participate in Sugar Awareness Week by reducing your sugar intake, using these top tips

Sugar can be part of a balanced, healthy diet (for example, sweet treats are often part of special celebratory occasions) if consumed occasionally, rather than as part of our daily meals, snacks and drinks. Here are some top tips to support you in consuming less sugar:

  • Remove those tempting triggers by keeping sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses away from the breakfast table — out of sight, out of mind!
  • Reduce the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and reduce down from there.
  • Sweeten cereal or oatmeal with fresh fruit (try bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots) instead of added sugar.
  • Swap flavoured, sweetened yoghurts for plain yoghurts and add fresh fruit or dried fruit.
  • When baking your favourite sweet treats, experiment! Cut the sugar in your recipe by one-third to one-half. If the sugar is reduced gradually, you’re unlikely to notice the difference.
  • Enhance the flavour of foods with herbs and spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Choose sugar-free or low-calorie drinks.
  • Read the food label to discover how much ‘free’ sugars are found in many everyday products (such as, salad dressings, ketchup and other sauces). Be aware that the reference intakes displayed on the front of food and drinks packets refer to Total Sugars, which also includes naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruit. Some food and drink producers make it easier for us to make a healthier choice, by colour coding their nutrition information on the front of the packet – for example, when it comes to food, 5g of sugar per 100g or less is considered a low sugar product, and therefore represented as green on the label, 22.5g of sugar or more is considered a ‘high’ sugar product and is represented as red and anything in between is amber. The definitions of high and low sugar in drinks are lower.
  • Use our free FoodSwitch App, with SugarSwitch to help you search for the healthier version of a food or drink quickly and easily[vi]

Keep your eyes peeled for our Sugar Awareness Week story, plus lots of sugar reduction tips, at and join the conversation @Actiononsugar  #SugarAwarenessWeek #whatisthedeal



* The sugars referred to throughout the article are ‘Free’ sugars. Free sugars – the type of sugars that we need to consume less of – include those found naturally in fruit juices, honey and syrups, plus sugars which are added to food and drink. Sugars contained naturally within the cell structure of whole-foods, such as fruit, or lactose naturally present in milk and dairy products are NOT defined as free sugars and therefore are not associated with the same health outcomes.

[1] which? more supermarket promotions on less healthy food (August, 2016).

[ii] Public Health England, Sugar reduction: From evidence into action (October, 2016)

[iii] Public Health England. Why 5%? (July 2015)

[iv] NHS Digital, Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet (March 2017)

[v] World Cancer Research Fund, Obesity, weight and cancer risk


Print this article


Find out more about the Food Active team and the Food Active Network

What we Do

Find out more about our programme of work and our priorities

Policy Change

Explore our work on influencing policy both locally and nationally


Discover our range of campaigns to promote behaviour change


Find out more about our research to understand and explore the food environment


Get up to speed with our past conferences and events programme