The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, is to be hauled before MPs to explain why the government was allowed to shelve the publication of a report on possible measures to reduce sugar consumption - as exclusively revealed by The Grocer in July.
The report, including a detailed PHE review of the evidence for a sugar tax, was due to have been published in the summer alongside the SACN review on carbohydrates, which called for recommended sugar intake to be halved.
The Grocer reported that the Department of Health had ordered PHE to abandon the planned release amid fears it would demonise one ingredient at the expense of a “far broader” message over the causes of obesity.
However, as it launched an inquiry into childhood obesity this week, the House of Commons health committee accused PHE and health secretary Jeremy Hunt of covering up the case for a tax.
“The committee is deeply dismayed that we haven’t seen publication of the detailed evidence review,” said committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston. “We consider that this is an obstruction to our inquiry.”
Selbie will now be forced to give evidence to the committee on Monday, with Wollaston promising it will grill PHE on alleged breaches of the rules on transparency of data and evidence.
“We’ve reviewed the evidence on how to reduce the nation’s excessive sugar consumption and have shared the findings with the government,” Selbie said. “It is appropriate for the government to have time to consider this in shaping its strategy to tackle the obesity crisis.
“We have been, and remain, fully engaged in the development of the government’s childhood obesity strategy and are pleased to see the evidence placed at the heart of this process. Our evidence review will be published in its entirety alongside the government’s strategy.”