The research showed 97% of cakes and 74% of biscuits would receive a red (high) label for sugar

A new study has attacked the reformulation by biscuit and cake manufacturers, with campaigners calling on the government to introduce mandatory regulations.

Research by Action on Sugar (AOS) published by the journal BMJ Open, claimed sugar and calorie content within the categories was contributing to the obesity crisis.

It showed 97% of cakes and 74% of biscuits would receive a red (high) label for sugar.

The BMJ Open paper also found on average, Battenberg (56.4g/100g) contained the highest amounts of sugar, followed by Genoa (45.9g/100 g) and red velvet cakes (44.2g/100g), while blueberry muffins (24.6g/100g) contained the lowest amount. When it came to biscuits, the average sugar content was 30.0g/100g.

Although the data was based on 2016 figures, AOS said the sugar reformulation report published by Public Health England in May showed many cake and biscuit manufacturers were failing to reformulate and reduce the amount of sugar sold in their products.

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The PHE data showed Lotus Bakeries, which increased sugar sold on average in its biscuits by 3.7%, Tesco (2.6% increase), Fox’s Biscuits (1.3% increase), Pladis UK/McVitie’s (1.3% increase) and Mondelez (1.0% increase) - were all failing to meet the 5% sugar reduction target.

In cake, Tesco (4.0% increase) and Sainsbury’s (0.6% increase) also increased the amount of sugar sold through cakes.

Graham MacGregor, co-author of the study and chairman of AOS, said: “Large amounts of cakes and biscuits are consumed in the UK so a reduction in the amount of sugar and calorie content could play an important role in helping prevent obesity and tooth decay. The majority of the food and drink industry in the UK have asked the government for a more robust and mandatory programme of reformulation. It is a tragedy for our children that this has not been done.”

A spokeswoman for Tate & Lyle said companies were responding to calls for reformulation.

“We’ve seen demand for sugar reduction support from bakery customers grow significantly, both ahead of and in response to the launch of Public Health England’s sugar reduction targets.

“Nutrition is a relatively new consideration for many cake producers as this is viewed as an indulgent or ‘treat’ category. Sugar plays many different roles in a cake, and texture, volume and shelf life must be factored into any planned changes, with staged reductions helping consumer palates to adjust over time.”