Asking processed food firms to cut calories voluntarily hasn’t worked

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Voluntary targets to cut back the calorie or sugar content material of meals appear to not work

Stephen French/Alamy

Encouraging meals producers to voluntarily cut back the energy, sugar or salt content material of their merchandise doesn’t work. That’s in keeping with an evaluation of modifications within the dietary content material of meals and drinks offered in English supermarkets between 2015 and 2018.

Over time, Public Well being England, a authorities company, has set voluntary targets for lowering the energy, sugar and salt content material of processed meals offered within the nation. The voluntary targets had been set within the hopes of encouraging producers to vary the dietary content material of their merchandise moderately than forcing reformulations.

Lauren Bandy and her colleagues on the College of Oxford have now assessed the influence of the targets.

“We principally discovered that there wasn’t actually a lot change,” says Bandy. “The one change that we might see was with smooth drinks.”

The smooth drink change could also be as a result of sugary drinks have been topic to a UK tax launched in 2018, she says.

The researchers noticed a small improve within the variety of merchandise labeled by the UK authorities as wholesome on the idea of their nutrient profile, from 46 per cent in 2015 to 47 per cent in 2018. There was additionally a rise within the sale of wholesome merchandise, from 44 per cent in 2015 to 51 per cent in 2018. They attributed these will increase to the sugar reductions in smooth drinks inspired by the 2018 tax.

“We want carrots in addition to sticks when in search of to handle the UK’s [obesity-generating] meals setting,” says Stuart Gillespie on the Worldwide Meals Coverage Analysis Institute in Washington DC. “However relating to large meals, the stick – within the type of a government-mandated tax – is way simpler.”

The merchandise the staff evaluated had been from quite a lot of meals and beverage corporations and didn’t embody grocery store “personal” manufacturers.

“Some analysis has beforehand proven that private-label manufacturers can typically be more healthy than their branded counterparts,” says Elizabeth Dunford on the George Institute for International Well being in Australia.

Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254833

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