There are things we take for granted, assuming somehow they’ve always been that way. Adding sugar to your coffee, tea, or breakfast cereal is one of them. At home, there’s a bowl of sugar. Out and about, sachets of it are found at every café. Actually, adding sugar to our diet has only been something we do in the last 150 years. Now, like nicotine, it’s rightly coming under scrutiny as the negative health effects of sugar become more apparent.
We’ve been here before. Not so long ago, concern about the impact of salt added to foods led to an agreement to slowly reduce the amount of it added. As it happened gradually over a decade from 2001, people didn’t notice – but the effect of Consensus Action on Salt and Health was to cut average salt intake by 15%, which prevented an absolute minimum of 6,000 strokes and saved around £1.5 billion in healthcare costs.
It’s clearly time to act on sugar in the same way that endemic salt use has been reduced. And that requires a lot less faffing by the government and the simple commitment to taxing sugary products and supporting moves to reduce consumption. In America, there are plans to reduce sugar consumption from 12 spoons a day to 7, and if they can do that in a country where the sugar business is worth $50 billion annually, then the same can be done in the UK.
Some people will say that we’re suggesting a restriction on freedom, but how free are you truly when you don’t know just how much sugar some companies add to products, and are ignorant about its effects? And it’s not only the obvious products that contain excess sugar, like chocolates and fizzy drinks. It’s hidden in non-sweet foods, like ready meals, so-called ‘healthy’ breakfast cereals, diet foods, and even breads. Some 3.5 million people have diabetes in the UK and that costs around £8.8 billion to deal with annually – a figure set to rise to £15 billion by 2035.
Those are facts and figures, and what they represent in human terms is lives cut short to make it easier for some manufacturers to make their food products tolerable, giving people a short term fix while potentially creating health problems over time. We cannot allow our government to stand by and watch people fall ill from terminal, but preventable diseases, or waste that kind of money on healthcare. More education and More preventionis is what’s required. If they don’t take action, they are complicit in the obesity epidemic.
I urge you to read more about what’s happening here – http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/actiononsugar/Press%20Release%20/120017.html – and to consider how your choices as a consumer and voter can make an impact on a healthier future.
If you believe that companies make huge profits off products with excess sugar should be taxed, please sign our petition. Just 20p per can of fizzy drink could raise £1 billion per year – money that could be put towards better healthcare.
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- Editor’s Letter - April 27, 2017
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