A UK trade body has spoken out over a new campaign aimed at forcing food and drink firms to cut the amount of “hidden sugar” in their products, in an attempt to help tackle obesity.

The campaign group ‘Action on Sugar’ is calling on companies to reduce the proportion of sugar in their products by up to 30% over the next five years. The group, which includes health experts and academics from the UK, US and Canada, also wants CSDs producers to stop advertising “sugary” drinks to children, as it claims sugar has become the “alcohol of childhood”.

The campaigners also reportedly want the UK Government to fine companies that do not meet their targets on reducing sugar, or face a ‘sugar tax’.

Dealing with obesity costs the UK Government around GBP5bn (US$8.21bn) a year, it is claimed. 

However, Barbara Gallani, the Food & Drink Federation’s director of regulation, science & health, said that there are no easy answers to tackling obesity. “Sugars, or any other nutrient for that matter, consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet are not a cause of obesity, to which there is no simple or single solution,” she said. The industry, she added, has been working on a “range of initiatives” to tackle obesity and diet-related diseases. 

She flagged that producers have already started to cut the amount of sugar in products as part of the UK Government’s Responsibility Deal, which involves a pledge to cut calories.

The UK soft drinks industry has previously had to face down increasing calls for a new tax on CSDs.