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Teenagers drink a bath full of sugary drinks a year, Cancer Research says

Published 22/11/2016

Many children are consuming far above the recommended amount of sugar, Cancer Research has said
Many children are consuming far above the recommended amount of sugar, Cancer Research has said

Teenagers drink the equivalent of almost a bath full of sugary drinks every year, a charity has warned.

New figures from Cancer Research UK suggest those aged 11 to 18 each drink just over 234 cans of soft drink a year - or one bathtub full.

Even toddlers aged between 1.5 and three drink the equivalent of 1.34 cans of fizzy drink every week - or 69.68 in a year, the analysis showed.

Meanwhile, those aged four to 10 drink 110.61 cans of fizzy drink per year on average - almost half a bathtub.

In March, the Government announced it will introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks with added sugar.

Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax ,while those with more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a litre of fizzy drink if the full cost is passed on to the consumer.

Pure fruit juices will be exempt as they do not carry added sugar, while drinks with a high milk content will also be exempt due to their calcium content.

A 330ml can of cola can contain 35g of sugar. This exceeds the maximum sugar recommendations for a five-year-old (19g of total sugar per day) and for a child aged 11 and over (30g per day).

The new Cancer Research UK data was based on data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

It found that a dults and young children currently consume twice the maximum recommended amount of added sugar. And 11 to 18-year-olds eat and drink three times the recommended limit, with sugary drinks being their main source of added sugar.

Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's shocking that teenagers are drinking the equivalent of a bathtub of sugary drinks a year.

"We urgently need to stop this happening and the good news is that the Government's sugar tax will play a crucial role in helping to curb this behaviour. The ripple effect of a small tax on sugary drinks is enormous, and it will give soft drinks companies a clear incentive to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks.

"When coupled with the Government's plan to reduce sugar in processed food, we could really see an improvement to our diets.

"But the Government can do more to give the next generation a better chance, by closing the loophole on junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed. The UK has an epidemic on its hands, and needs to act now."

Cancer Research UK estimates that a 20p-per-litre sugar tax could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade.

Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "The sugar levy is a good way to help cut intakes, but children get sugar from many sources.

"We're also working with businesses and retailers to gradually take sugar out of the food children eat the most, so we can cut sugar intakes across the whole diet, not just drinks."

Gavin Partington, director-general of industry body the British Soft Drinks Association, said: "The latest Government NDNS data actually shows that teenagers' sugar intake from soft drinks is down by 8%.

"This is not surprising since soft drinks companies' action on reformulation and smaller pack sizes has helped drive a 17% cut in sugar consumed from soft drinks since 2012.

"The soft drinks sector is ahead of the game and in 2015 became the only category to set a voluntary calorie reduction target of 20% by 2020. We also voluntarily extended the advertising rules regarding under-16s to all online media."

A Government spokesman said: "We know that high added sugar in soft drinks is a problem - that's why as part of our world-leading obesity plan, the soft drinks industry levy is encouraging companies to significantly reduce the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks.

"We are already seeing companies like Tesco and the makers of Lucozade taking action. This is proof that taking added sugar out of drinks is both possible and meets the expectations of many consumers.

"Our plan is the start of a conversation and we haven't ruled out further measures if we do not see the progress we need."

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