Sports and energy drinks escape action

Sports and energy drinks escape action

The UK Government's food watchdog has called on soft drinks producers to reduce their use of added sugar and offer smaller pack sizes for full sugar drinks.

All full sugar soft drinks should be made available in 250ml packs, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said today (26 March).

It also called on soft drinks firms to reduce added sugar in drinks, as part of the body's new strategy to cut saturated fat and sugar in consumers' diets.

There will, however, be no mandatory rules on sugar levels in drinks. Instead, the FSA is pursuing a "voluntary" approach with industry, as it has done with several artificial colourings linked to hyperactivity in children.

All producers of carbonated, squash, still and juice drinks containing at least 8g sugar per 100ml should cut levels of added sugar by 4% by the end of 2012. Total sugar content will be measured against 2008 levels.

New drinks that are above the 8g limit should have at least 4% less sugar than the nearest equivalent product on the market in 2008.

Producers should prioritise action on their biggest selling drinks, the FSA said.

"We recognise the excellent work already achieved by many food businesses to make healthier eating easier," said the FSA's head of nutrition, Dr Clair Baynton.

"But to make even greater progress it’s important that everybody gets behind our recommendations on saturated fat, added sugar and portion sizes."

Sports and energy drinks will not be targeted by the FSA, despite protests from health groups.

"The final recommendation applies to non-sports/energy drinks only at this time to encourage businesses to focus on the products that will deliver the greatest public health benefits," said the FSA, adding that such drinks constitute a mere 3%  of the total UK soft drinks market by volume.

"We will continue to monitor the market and promotion of energy/sports drinks," said the agency.

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) said today that it is "committed" to working with Government, but it criticised FSA targets.

"We are pleased the FSA has recognised the ongoing work undertaken by the industry in providing a wide choice of soft drinks and pack sizes, but believe that an emphasis on the importance of a balanced diet and active lifestyle would be more beneficial than the setting of arbitrary targets.”

Low and no added sugar drinks make up 61% of the UK soft drinks market by volume, it added.

The FSA said that it is only targeting added sugar, not natural sugar content in fruit juice.