Industry heavyweights meet at Sugar Summit
Yesterday afternoon, Kennedy’s had the pleasure of attending the Sugar Summit in Parliament – a gathering of some of the industry’s most influential stakeholders who convened to help overcome the ongoing sugar challenge.
Hosted by Sugarwise, an organisation founded by Rend Platings that validates low sugar and sugar-free food and drink products with a kite mark on the packaging, attendees came from the entire spectrum (including the likes of Guylian, Cavalier Chocolates and Plamil Foods in the chocolate sector).
Prior to the start of the event, Rend issued the following statement: “I would like to shift the focus of the debate to positive measures that can be taken on sugar reduction. The shock revelation in last week’s Panorama that children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is not a future I will accept for my child. I’d like to get people’s heads together on all sides of the debate to work out what our steps will be.”
The discussion was chaired by Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes. Ahead of proceedings, he noted: “Retailers, consumers and manufacturers all have a responsibility to take action on this matter. There are an estimated 70,000 deaths a year due to poor diet, costing the NHS £6 billion per year. There are currently 4 million people in the UK living with diabetes. Action on this matter is long overdue.”
The Brexit impact
Vaz MP noted that the UK is currently in the first stages of new government legislation to tackle the sugar problem, and those on the panel also analysed the impact of ‘Brexit’ on potential sugar reforms.
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum was critical of governments (past and present) for not doing enough in the Forum’s 20-year history, but mentioned that labelling changes are also important. Specifically, he revealed, “Brexit means we can have two lines about sugar on packaging” for the first time, as products would no longer be bound by EU guidelines – although, as one attendee pointed out, they will still be hoping to sell their products to European consumers, and thus still bound by EU legislation to some extent.
Jean Savigny, of Keller and Heckman LLP, added that, “Until Article 50 is triggered, EU legislation is still fully applicable in the UK. However, the existing EU legislation does have opportunities for new measures to be taken”.
Jenny Rosborough of Action on Sugar stated: “There’s more to obesity than just sugar, but it’s a popular topic at present and a good vehicle for discussion [of health in general]”.
She added that the overall food environment needs to change to help consumers make healthier choices, starting with a strong reformulation programme. Action on Sugar wants sugar reduced across the board by 20% in the next four years, and Jenny believes that imposing voluntary measures on food manufacturers is not that effective.
Rend Platings, founder of Sugarwise, emphasised her desire for lower sugar options to be more visibile (in a similar vein to Fairtrade and Vegetarian products), and that the Sugarwise kite mark is a “third party way of determining sugar information, validating the manufacturer’s data”. Sugarwise is the only certification scheme in the world for sugar information, and its logo is already on 300 products.
Concluding proceedings, Rend added: “We want to start a positive wave of action – it may take months or even years, but we will make a difference for the sake of our children”.
Vaz added that, irrespective of existing legislations, manufacturers can make the decision to add the Sugarwise logo to their products today if they wanted to.
However, Jenny Rosborough commented that “Only people who are healthy and engaged are looking at health labels in the first place”; suggesting that while kite marks such as Sugarwise’s can help make a difference, the problem may well run deeper – and a total re-education of consumers and their health habits may be required.