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Some kids eating their own weight in sugar each year

By Jamie McKinnell

The latest food campaign against sugar has intensified after revelations some children are consuming their own bodyweight in sugar each year.

This has prompted a Government push to urge parents to make healthier food choices.

Public Health England (PHE) has released television, digital and outdoor advertising for the Change4Life campaign, accompanied by a free phone app that allows users to scan product barcodes to learn how much sugar they contain in grams or cubes.

The free app can be accessed by people in Northern Ireland.

Many foods marketed as healthy contain large amounts of sugar, such as breakfast cereals, baked beans and even bread.

Children aged between four and 10 eat around 22kg of sugar every year - the average weight of a five-year-old, say health officials.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's latest crusade is also against the over-consumption of sugar. He wants a tax on sugary foods and fizzy drinks.

The 40-year-old cook wants the tax raised from sugar to be invested in schools to tackle childhood obesity.

In 2013 almost a third of five-year-olds in England and almost half of its eight-year-olds had tooth decay, but the campaign also highlights other sugar-related health risks such as diabetes and obesity.

In Northern Ireland around 25% of children aged two-10 are classed as overweight and obese, a figure that has not changed since 2005-6.

The Health Survey of Northern Ireland published last year showed a greater proportion of girls (21%) were overweight compared to boys (15%), but the same proportion of boys and girls were classed as obese (7%).

Almost one in four children born in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the new century was obese by the age of 11. And 19% of two-to-10-year-olds were overweight and 6% obese.

Dietary habits are also poor, with 67% not eating their five-a-day and 19% of 11-16-year-olds not eating breakfast on a school day.

Meanwhile, 27% said they don't eat a school dinner or snack because they are too expensive.

The chief medical officer for England has said a sugar tax may have to be introduced to curb obesity rates.

Dame Sally Davies told a committee of MPs last year that unless the government was strong with food and drink manufacturers, it was unlikely they would reformulate their products. She believed "research will find sugar is addictive", and that "we may need to introduce a sugar tax".

The food industry said it was working on reducing sugar in products.

Speaking to the health select committee, Dame Sally said: "We have a generation of children who, because they're overweight and their lack of activity, may well not live as long as my generation."

PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: "Children aged five shouldn't have more than 19 grammes of sugar per day - that's five cubes - but it's very easy to have more."

Obesity costs the NHS £5.1bn each year.

Belfast Telegraph


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