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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Tesco First to Take Action on Sugar

  • Action on Sugar’s plan for sugar reduction is underway!
  • Tesco first to commit to reducing added sugars by 5% incrementally a year in ALL own label soft drinks
  • Call on the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to implement this strategy across the whole of the food and drink industry, with robust enforcement measures in place
  • The UK can lead the world in reducing both the obesity and type 2 diabetes crisis



Action on Sugar welcomes the news that Tesco is to become the first retailer to commit to a major sugar reduction programme with a 5% year on year, open ended reduction in sugar across its entire sugary soft drinks range.

Action on Sugar has developed a coherent action plan to reduce excess calories in the UK’s diet by gradually reducing the amount of sugars added to soft drinks, and to reduce the sweetness so people get used to less sugar.  This is a strategy that was first undertaken by Consensus Action on Salt and health (CASH) and the Food Standards’ Agency for salt reduction, and has led to a 15% reduction in salt intakes, a fall in population blood pressure and 8,500 fewer deaths per year from strokes and heart attacks, with cost savings to the NHS of £1.5billion a year.  

Tesco has agreed to an incremental, unobtrusive, reformulation strategy on soft drinks to include: 
  1. The removal of all added sugar from the “Kids” category in Sept (Brand & Own Label) 
  2. The reformulation of Tesco Own Label full sugar products by 5% every year on-going 
  3. Start to move towards removing all Added Sugar from mainstream squash (added sugar has already been removed from own label and Robinsons) 
  4. Focus on water, squash and flavoured water to promote healthier lives
Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar, the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London says, “Incremental, unobtrusive reformulation is the key way of reducing calories across all sweetened drinks – merely having the option of ‘diet’ or ‘no sugar’ products does not work, particularly for the most socially deprived.  We are delighted that Tesco has agreed that this is exactly the sort of action that we need, and all other retailers must follow suit.”
“The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP can no longer ignore the fact that the current nutrition policy, whereby the food industry is allowed to police themselves (the Responsibility Deal) is, unsurprisingly, not working.  The UK requires the implementation of this coherent strategy, starting by setting incremental sugar reduction targets for soft drinks across the whole sector.  With robust enforcement if they do not comply.” 
The salt reduction programme pioneered by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has become one of the most successful nutritional policies in the UK since the Second World War, by setting targets for the food industry to add less salt to all of their products, over a period of time. As this is done slowly, people do not notice the difference in taste and there is no reduction in sales.  Salt intake has fallen in the UK by 15% (between 2001-2011) and most products in the supermarkets have been reduced between 20 to 40%. 
A similar programme can now be developed to gradually reduce the amount of added sugar, and the sweetness, in food and soft drinks by setting targets for all foods and soft drinks where sugar has been added.  Action On Sugar has calculated that a 19% reduction in sugar added to all soft drinks, over the next four years is equivalent to removing approx. 2 teaspoons of sugar per can, and would result in 477 billion calories being removed from the UK diet, approx. 21kcal per person per day, and more in the socially deprived, who are much more prone to obesity. 

Please follow this link for the full press release [PDF 168KB]