In the wake of the controversial SACN report ordering the average intake of sugar to be halved, industry reactions are flooding in.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar

“The food and drink industry does not want to cause any more harm to its customers; they are waiting to be told what to do and it is essential that they are given a level-playing field so that they are all working towards the same goal. This policy must therefore be enforced by a strong independent agency.”

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation:

“The most thorough scientific review of carbohydrates and health carried out in recent years should leave people in no doubt that sugars can be enjoyed safely as part of a varied and balanced diet. Sensationalist commentaries on this everyday ingredient that are not based in science should now be relegated to the past. Demonising any one ingredient in the obesity debate isn’t helpful.

“The report confirms what we already know - that sugars are a contributing factor to tooth decay and if consumed in excess can lead to weight gain. SACN recommends a reduction in ‘free sugars’1 in the diet as one way of lowering energy (calorie) intake to help reduce obesity. The recommendation is also aimed at improving dental health. They make it clear that there is nothing specific about the effect of sugars when energy intake is held constant2. Another key recommendation is for people to eat more fibre.

“Companies’ ongoing work to lower calories in foods and drinks, including reducing sugars, and to offer a range of portion sizes and low and zero calorie options, supports this ambition. Food and drink producers have been fortifying products with added fibre for years.

“To meet the stretching dietary goals that SACN recommends will mean changes to the way people eat. Published diet modelling3 shows that people can reduce free sugars and boost fibre in the diet in a number of ways while still fitting in the foods and drink they enjoy.

“We hope SACN’s key recommendations will be translated into meaningful and practical diet and lifestyle messages which are consistently used by everyone with a voice in the health debate.”

Gavin Partington, BSDA director general

“Some people do need to reduce their sugar intake and eat a more balanced diet, but today’s recommendations make little sense and will further confuse people.

“Our industry is taking action to help and has successfully provided the choice that consumers need by developing a wide range of low and no sugar drinks. Manufacturers have reduced sugar intake from all soft drinks by more than 8% since 2012. Our ongoing work will do more to reduce sugar intake than the setting of unrealistic targets that do not consider overall diet and lifestyle.

“The fact is there is no difference between the sugar in soft drinks and the sugar in other types of food and drink. It is baffling that soft drinks have been singled out and the industry’s work to reduce the nation’s sugar intake ignored.”

Professor Simon Capewell, professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool and Action on Sugar advisor

“British children and parents are currently drowning in a world full of sugary drinks, cheap junk food and aggressive marketing. But in some other countries, regulations and duties have successfully reduced sugar intake. Can the UK government now show that they are also genuinely committed to promoting our children’s health, rather than supporting industry profits?”

Sugar Nutrition UK

“The conclusion in the report that ‘free sugars’ should not exceed 5% of total energy intake don’t seem to represent the current balance of scientific evidence. The practical impact of the 5% proposal is that consuming a 150ml glass of orange juice and a single piece of wholemeal toast and jam could take many people over the recommended level of daily ‘free sugars’ intake.

We are concerned that ’ the basis for the calculation of this 5% value is misrepresentative of the data and it is unclear how replacing energy from ‘free sugars’ with that from other carbohydrates would achieve the desired energy deficit. Furthermore, evidence is required to demonstrate there would be no unintended consequence of this recommendation, particular on those not over-consuming calories.”

Dr Alison Hill, Registered Nutritionist (Sport and Exercise)

“This report consolidates the scientific evidence that food and drinks with added sugars have been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. It highlights how important it is to make sure you only eat and drink small amounts of food and drinks high in sugars. They should be consumed infrequently rather than as everyday choices.”

Dr Emma Derbyshire, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health)

“We now have updated benchmarks for both sugars and fibre. Now that we have these, it’s a good time to reiterate the importance of embedding healthy dietary habits from an early age i.e. weaning with savoury as well as naturally sweeter foods (fruits and vegetables) and introducing to the family and children a liking for whole grains and pulses. If we begin with simple approaches such as these early on, it will be easier for Generation Z to fall in line with these new guidelines.”

Professor Paula Moynihan, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health)

“Reducing the amount of sugars in the diet, as the SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) report recommends, will help to safeguard our teeth throughout life.

The SACN Dietary Reference Value for free sugars of no more than 5% of energy intake will set the precedence for action to reduce sugars intake by the UK population and will guide public health initiatives aimed at reducing sugars intake”

Professor Chris Seal, Registered Nutritionist

“The benefits of increasing fibre intake are well recognised, but reaching the new target [of 30g per day] will be difficult. Increasing our consumption of whole-grain foods as recommended by SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) will help fill the fibre gap and bring additional nutrients into the diet.”

Aliya Porter, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health)

“Based on the recommendations in this report, consumers could consider increasing their consumption of wholegrains, pulses and vegetables to increase their fibre intake. Small steps to increase fibre intake include switching from a sugary cereal to a whole grain cereal like porridge or bran flakes, adding chick peas to your chicken tikka masala and adding a portion of sweetcorn to your evening meal.”

Elizabeth Tucker, Registered Nutritionist (Food)

“The recommendations show we need more fibre and less refined sugars especially for children, so sugary drinks should be replaced with water or low fat milk and food high in added sugars should be seen as an infrequent treat and not a daily occurrence. However we still need to look at the bigger nutritional picture, not just cutting back on sugars but addressing overall portion sizes and calories as well.

Swapping sugary drinks like soda and flavoured coffees to water and sugar-free/no added sugar varieties is a simple way to start reducing your intake of free sugars. Likewise you could have a plain low-fat yoghurt and add your own fruit rather than buying one with added sugars. ”

Jennifer Rosborough, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health)

“The new recommendation that no more than 5% of our daily energy should come from sugars does mean that people will have to change what they eat and drink, but it is something that is achievable and is needed to improve diets and health. The public deserve to know what’s best for our health and even if we’re just working towards it [5%] to begin with, it’s a start that will lead to positive health outcomes.

Education is key. Raising awareness of the evidence on sugars-sweetened beverages in relation to our health (type2 diabetes risk, weight gain and tooth decay) is crucial. Fruit flavoured drinks are commonly misinterpreted as healthy and they are easy to over-consume as drinks are less satiating than food.”

Suzanne Anderegg, Associate Nutritionist (ANutr)

“Evidence has shown that a higher intake of sugars-sweetened beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and results in weight gain, an increase in body mass index and a greater risk of developing dental caries. It is a positive move by Government to adopt these recommendations as they will make a real impact on the population’s diet, protect the health of our young people and prevent the future health burden of overweight and obesity from increasing.”

Dr Victoria Burley, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) and Dr Charlotte Evans, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health)

“The recommendation regarding dietary fibre is welcome, as evidence of poor health in people consuming diets based around low fibre foods is considerable. The increase in the recommended intake levels is quite large and will be a challenge to implement. However, in my opinion, the evidence of health benefits from consuming plentiful amounts of dietary fibre from wholegrains, less processed or high fibre breakfast cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes is clear. “

“Caution needs to be applied however, in that there is very limited evidence that achieving a 5% population average intake of free sugars will lead to a reduction in obesity prevalence in the UK. Other energy-rich foods, and dietary fat in particular, if consumed in excess are just as strongly implicated in promoting obesity. We therefore need to be careful about over-focussing on added sugars at the expense of overall dietary quality.”