lotus biscoff

A report by Action on Sugar falsely accused Lotus Bakeries of being one of the worst offenders in the category

Public Health England (PHE) has apologised after a blunder in its sugar reduction “naming and shaming” exercise led to a biscuit company being falsely accused of increasing the amount of the white stuff in its products.

Last week a report by Action on Sugar (AoS) accused Lotus Bakeries, whose biscuits are on the shelves in several UK retailers, of being one of the worst offenders in the category for contributing to the obesity crisis.

Not so Sugar Smart: PHE’s 2016 shaming error

The biscuit blunder is not the first time PHE has got it wrong when naming and shaming food companies.

In January 2016 the body was also forced to apologise after The Grocer revealed its new Sugar Smart barcode app was riddled with errors.

The Change4Life barcode scanner, launched that month, shot to the top of the iTunes free chart, with 700,000-plus downloads in a few weeks.

However, we revealed at least half a dozen companies accused PHE of displaying wrong information for a raft of different lines, including some with massively distorted sugar levels.

PHE blamed third party providers for the errors, later updating the information.

It had used official PHE figures from a landmark report in May, on the first year of its voluntary reformulation programme, which said Lotus had increased the sugar sold on average in its biscuits by 3.7%.

A study by AoS attacked the reformulation by biscuit and cake manufacturers, with campaigners calling on the government to introduce mandatory regulations because of lack of progress.

However, this week PHE was forced to apologise to Lotus after admitting it got its figures wrong, having accidentally included figures for the Natural Balance Foods products, including the Naked range, which are owned by a separate company.

Read more: Biscuit and cake makers fail to cut sugar, finds report

A PHE spokesperson said: “The sales weighted average total sugar figure for Lotus Bakeries includes Natural Balance Foods products which are part-owned by the Lotus Bakeries Group and not Lotus Bakeries UK.

“When Natural Balance Foods products are removed from the published figure the sales weighted average total sugar figure for Lotus Bakeries shows no change.”

Lotus Bakeries Group sales and marketing director Mark Staniforth said the blunder had been an “unfortunate error” that had left the company having to explain to its customers that reports of rising sugar levels were unfair.

“We were frustrated because obviously we don’t want our customers to have information that is incorrect.”

The FDF claimed other companies had also raised concerns about the data, and about PHE’s decision not to allow companies to see the report before it was published.

A spokeswoman said: “Some of our members have reported concerns about their data. It is something that we have raised with PHE and will continue to discuss ahead of next year’s report, in order for companies to understand how PHE came to the figures they published.

“Companies did ask PHE to be able to see, and check, the data before it was published but they were not allowed.”