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Campaign launched to reduce sugar intake through processed foods

In January 2014, Action on Sugar, a new campaign group, was launched to lobby for a reduction in the use of sugar in the food industry.

Headed by international medical professionals, the UK-based initiative was started in response to rising global levels of obesity and an increase in the incidence of a range of non-communicable diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. The campaign aims to build on the success of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health group which "led to UK industry slashing salt levels by 15% in ten years". The new group is lobbying the UK government "to set four-year targets to gradually reduce sugar in brands by 30-40%".

In an interview with Confectionery News, Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, maintained that "taking out sugar will make products cheaper to produce", adding, "We don't want substitution, just take it out." Sugar in chocolate "accounts for about 3040% of calories... while the rest comes from fat" (milk fat and cocoa butter). Professor MacGregor observed: "If you reduce caloric intake, you reduce obesity."

The high level of sugar in other food products was also highlighted. While the UK government's 'responsibility deal' has already seen "leading confectioners such as Mars, Mondelez International and Nestl" pledging to reduce the caloric intake in single-serve confectionery, Professor MacGregor maintained that this voluntary approach was not enough, since "it relied on industry taking voluntary actions to prioritize public health interests above their own." Professor MacGregor suggested that reducing the sugar content of a Mars bar by 30% would reduce the product size, and advocated maintaining the price in order to not to increase consumption. He considered that "if you do it slowly, people's taste receptors adjust."