United Kingdom

Research suggests food giants are 'ignoring' sugar and salt targets

Voluntary targets for the food industry to cut sugar, salt and fat have done little to make popular products healthier, Oxford experts said yesterday.

The researchers studied 3,000 brands from ten leading firms, giving each a nutritional score for healthiness.

And they found that only one of the 50 top sellers – Special K cereal – had moved from the unhealthy to healthy category over a four-year period.

Coca-Cola, Galaxy chocolate, KitKat bars, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Carte D’Or ice cream were among the products found not to have significantly changed nutritionally.

Coca-Cola (pictured), Galaxy chocolate, KitKat bars, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Carte D’Or ice cream were among the products found not to have significantly changed nutritionally in a study undertaken by Oxford researchers, suggesting food giants are ignoring targets

Dr Lauren Bandy, of the University of Oxford’s Nuffield department of population health, said: ‘Our study shows that, so far, not much has been done to improve the overall healthiness of household brands owned by top companies, with the exception of soft drinks, which are subject to a tax that has encouraged lower sugar levels.

‘Policymakers may want to review the voluntary reformulation targets, and consider alternatives like a snack tax or confectionery tax if we are to see a significant improvement in the population’s diet.

‘There is so much hidden sugar and salt in everyday products, which people are often unaware of.’

Britain should introduce the world’s first tax on sugary and salty food, according to a national food strategy drawn up by Boris Johnson’s food tsar Henry Dimbleby, founder of restaurant chain Leon.

The ‘snack tax’ could add £3.4billion to household grocery bills, with a 60p Mars bar costing 9p more. Popular brands are usually judged by their sugar and salt levels, but the Oxford study also factored in calories, saturated fat and fibre. 

The top companies were not judged for their reformulation efforts before 2015.

But in the four years since then, the study authors concluded, there was ‘little change’ in their nutritional scores.

Boris Johnson’s food tsar Henry Dimbleby (pictured, file photo), founder of restaurant chain Leon, says Britain should introduce the world’s first tax on sugary and salty food

The researchers said sales of healthy foods increased.

Both Hellmann’s and Carte D’Or have ‘lighter’ options.

Kate Halliwell, chief scientific officer of the Food and Drink Federation, said reformulation ‘takes time’, adding: ‘Compared to 2015, FDF members’ products now contribute 11 per cent fewer calories, 11 per cent fewer sugars, and 14 per cent less salt to the average shopping basket.’ 

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