Ministers ought to cap home sugar manufacturing to deal with Britain’s weight problems disaster, in keeping with a brand new report backed by well being specialists and environmental campaigners.
The UK grows and imports greater than two and a half occasions the inhabitants’s most really useful consumption of sugar, in keeping with Sugar Air pollution, a report by environmental campaigners Suggestions World and Motion on Sugar, a gaggle of specialists in drugs, vitamin and public well being.
That oversupply creates incentives for meals producers to make use of extra of their merchandise and for British farmers to develop sugar beet quite than fruit or greens, the report argues.
The campaigners have referred to as for a quota that will ultimately minimize sugar manufacturing within the UK by half, introduce tariffs on imports of sugar cane and refined sugar, and subsidise farmers to develop extra fruit and vegetable crops.
In addition they say that sugar producers needs to be handled in keeping with the “polluter pays” precept, much like guidelines on product packaging. This might require sugar producers and producers to pay the hidden well being and environmental prices of sugar to society.
Jessica Sinclair Taylor, head of coverage at Suggestions World and one of many report’s authors, mentioned: “The underlying message of this report is that to deal with consumption and to deal with the issues attributable to manufacturing, the present degree of provide is simply far, far in extra of what we want. We’ve a lot of coverage about the necessity to assist individuals eat much less, however nothing that focuses on the best way that provide would possibly drive and contribute to demand.”
Hattie Burt, senior coverage and worldwide tasks officer at Motion on Sugar, and one other creator of the report, mentioned public well being insurance policies such because the sugar discount programme from 2015 to 2020, which challenged the meals trade to cut back sugar in on a regular basis meals, had truly seen a 7.1% improve in tonnes of sugar bought.
“[Health policies] are by no means going to be sufficient, since you’ve received these commerce and agricultural land-use insurance policies which are attempting to extend the quantity of sugar. Once you take a step again, a part of the explanation there may be a lot sugar of their merchandise is as a result of it’s extremely obtainable and comparatively low cost.”
By 2022, 63.8% of adults in England had been estimated to be obese or overweight, in keeping with the Workplace for Well being Enchancment and Disparities, with 25.9% categorised as overweight. Frontier Economics estimates that weight problems prices the UK about £58bn annually in illness, shorter lifespan and misplaced productiveness.
Though weight problems is attributable to a variety of things, the prevalence of high-calorie meals which might be excessive in salt, sugar and fats are a part of the issue, and processed meals not perceived to be candy can include stunning quantities of sugar.
In keeping with the Sugar Air pollution report, the UK imports or grows 1.91m tonnes of sugar a 12 months, but when the entire inhabitants ate the utmost really useful quantity, it might be simply 0.72m tonnes.
Simply over half of the UK’s sugar provide is grown domestically by 2,300 farmers, principally within the east of England and the east Midlands, and processed by British Sugar. The remaining is imported – uncooked sugar cane, principally from Brazil, or refined sugar or confectionery.
The quantity of land used within the UK for sugar beet is about 100,000 hectares, virtually as a lot as for all the vegetable crop of 107,000 hectares.
“Farmers like beet as a result of it’s a handy crop for them,” mentioned Sinclair Taylor. Different horticultural crops had been purchased by supermarkets, so “the worth can fluctuate lots over the 12 months. With beet, there’s a negotiated worth set by the NFU and British Sugar. It’s additionally a part of their rotation, so in addition they develop issues like wheat and rapeseed. So farmers are making completely rational choices – it’s simply that the incentives are barmy.”
The report additionally highlights the environmental results of beet rising. When beets are dug, topsoil sticks to the roots, which causes the lack of 464,000 tonnes of topsoil a 12 months, the report says.
And for the final three years, ministers have authorized using neonicotinoid seed remedies to stop aphids spreading viruses that hurt beets. Neonicotinoids have been banned within the EU and the UK as a result of the chemical compounds are dangerous to bees and people, however the authorities permits derogations from the foundations.
A spokesperson for British Sugar mentioned it was “proud to be on the coronary heart of the British beet sugar trade”.
“Sugar beet is a vital a part of our growers’ arable rotation, appearing as a break crop and thereby enhancing biodiversity and returning natural materials from sugar beet tops to the soil after the crop is harvested. Farmers don’t obtain any subsidies for rising sugar beet.
“Weight problems continues to be a significant public well being challenge within the UK, and one which we at British Sugar take extraordinarily significantly. We stay absolutely dedicated to informing and educating individuals about sugar and the position it could possibly play, as a part of a wholesome, balanced weight loss plan by means of our Making Sense of Sugar programme.”