Restaurant chains commit to reducing portion sizes, sugar use by a fifth in support of the fight against obesity

Fast food chains and restaurant groups in the United Kingdom have stepped up to the plate and have committed to cut back on their sugar use by 20 percent by 2020, an article in the Daily Mail reports.

High-street food and beverage brands like Caffè Nero, Costa, Greggs, McDonald’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut Delivery, Premier Inn, Starbucks, Wetherspoons, and Whitbread Restaurants have set up a code of practice that lists their commitments in ensuring they meet their sugar reduction target, in keeping with the Childhood Obesity Plan of the Department of Health and Social Care.

In a statement released by participating brands, the commitments set forth in the code will guide them in future product development and marketing strategies. At its core, the code of practice aims to change the concept of “eating out” in general, starting with how food and beverages are developed.

Aside from the 2020 goal set by the code, other commitments set forth include:

  • Reducing sugar through innovative new products and recipes
  • Providing wider choices and lighter options in support of the “5 A Day” campaign for healthier and well-balanced diets
  • Running “responsible promotions” that adhere to broadcast regulations for advertisements
  • Encouraging customers to make healthier choices with the use of “nudge” tactics
  • Providing nutritional information that is clear and easily understood
  • Cooperating with other shareholders to push the industry forward

“We’re proud of this Code of Practice for the out of home dining sector, which has been drawn up with input by businesses from pub chains to coffee shops,” according to an alliance spokesperson. “These pledges will positively benefit the millions of customers we welcome into our stores and restaurants every day, to help make a significant collective impact.”

The group now calls on other stores to adopt the code, stating that this will create an even stronger resolution to curb sugar use. The development of the code will be monitored by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), which has also helped review the commitments set by the code.

The move of companies to cut back on sugar, while laudable, has been met with cautious optimism from some groups.

“We welcome the move by these reputable high street food and drinks chains and hope that they all fully commit to evidence-based actions, such as stopping unhealthy promotions and reformulating products with less sugar, within their code of practice – along with the other out of home businesses who are yet to sign up,” Kawther Hashem, a representative of consumer group Action of Sugar, stated. “However, we do question how strongly and quickly these changes will be implemented, based on their limited progress to date, and sincerely hope this marks a turning point in them taking action to prevent obesity.”

Sugar remains to be a big factor in cases of obesity around the world. In the United States, around one in three children are either overweight or obese with sugar, particularly those in sweet beverages, as the main culprit.

Several studies have linked obesity with an increased consumption of added sugars from beverages. In one study, researchers found that drinking a 12-ounce soda a day may increase the likelihood of obesity by as much as 60 percent. Another study has pointed out that people who drink a can or two of sugary drinks also increase the likelihood of getting type-2 diabetes and dying from a heart attack than those who rarely drink sugary beverages.

To cut down on excess sugar, U.K.’s National Health Service has listed the following suggestions:

  • Instead of sodas, go for water or no-fat milk. Be careful of smoothies or unsweetened fruit juices since these may also contain sugars.
  • Read nutrition labels to understand which foods contain high amounts of sugar, as well as which products have added sugars (or use sweeteners). (Related: The Various Names of Sugar.)
  • Go for unsweetened cereal in the morning. If you need to add something to sweeten it, go for fruits like bananas and berries instead of sugar.

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