Brighton & Hove is hosting the first city-wide initiative in the UK over the devastating harm caused by overconsumption of sugar as part of a drive to help reduce obesity in an initiative called Sugar Smart City.
More than 100 early years centres, care homes, cafes, restaurants and takeaways already offer healthier options under the Healthy Choice scheme run by the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership in cooperation with Brighton & Hove City Council and this new initiative will help to enhance the partnerships work further with more emphasis on sugar.
One in three children is overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school while nationally we are eating three times as much sugar as we should. In Brighton & Hove alone over 300 children were admitted to hospital for teeth extraction in 2012 /13 and treating diet related diseases costs the NHS in Brighton & Hove £80 million a year.
The city’s Director of Public Health, Tom Scanlon, has called on residents, schools, food outlets and the city to ask whether we should be taking action on sugar in Brighton and Hove and what action we need to take.
The first phase of Sugar Smart City will be a debate to explore what residents, public agencies as well as food retailers and takeaways can do to combat the city’s unhealthy addiction to sugar.
There are five key actions and results #SugarSmartCity aims to achieve which include Sugar Smart schools, Sugar Smart cafés and takeaway, Sugar Smart Vending, Sugar Smart checkouts rolled out in every supermarket in the city and a drive to sign up restaurants and food outlets to support the Children’s Health Fund with a sugary drinks levy.
The money raised from the voluntary soft drinks levy will be paid into the Children’s Health Fund to support programmes and schemes aimed at improving children’s health and food education.
Chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver is backing and joining the discussion. He is inviting food outlets in the city from restaurants to takeaways to adopt a voluntary 10p sugar levy on soft drinks with added sugar.
Jamie Oliver said, “I am delighted that Brighton and Hove City Council is launching a city-wide initiative to raise awareness around the dangers of consuming too much sugar and the link to obesity and diet related diseases.
“Locally based initiatives such as #SugarSmartCity, are exactly what we need to try to tackle the rise in obesity and diet related disease. Today, studies show, that 1 in 3 of our children are leaving primary school overweight or obese and these children are likely to be the first generation that will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.”
His own Jamie’s Italian on Black Lion Lane has already imposed its own levy with the money raised going to Sustain, a charity working in health and food education.
Jamie added, “I have recently launched a voluntary levy on sugary drinks in my own restaurants to help raise funds for the Children’s Health Fund which will be used to support health and educational programmes across the UK. I believe it’s every child’s human right to understand where their food comes from, how to cook it and what effect it has on their bodies. Only through this knowledge will they be able to make the right choices to lead healthier, happier lives.
“Brighton and Hove City Council is leading the way with Sugar Smart and I hope that we can see real and significant change across the city giving the children of Brighton and Hove a healthier future. I also hope this inspires other councils around the UK to follow Brighton and Hove’s lead.”
Extra sugar is linked to tooth decay, excess energy intake and weight gain with England having one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe. Residents are eating up to three times as much sugar as they should. The group with the highest intake are teenagers for whom sugar sweetened drinks make up 30-40%. Fizzy sugary drinks have no nutritional value as part of a balanced diet.
A recent government review highlighted the link between the amount of sugary drinks consumed and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and recommended reducing sugary drinks particularly in young people.
But it is not just the sugars in sweet foods that are the problem. Many processed foods sold as savoury foods or healthier options have significant amounts of sugar amongst the ingredients. Examples include flavoured yoghurt, which can contain up to 4tsps of sugar per 125g pot, cereals where some aimed at children have as much as 3tsps of sugar per 30g serving and a 330ml can of fizzy drink containing up to 8tsps of sugar.
Brighton & Hove City Council Director of Public Health Tom Scanlon said: “We are consuming more sugar than ever before and this is having extremely serious effects on levels of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.
“The purpose of this Sugar Smart debate is to raise awareness and for us all to take a look at what we can do at homes, in schools and in restaurants, cafes and takeaways to address this. We’re really pleased to have Jamie Oliver’s team as a partner in this.
The debate aims to raise awareness of the health impacts of high sugar consumption, involve the public and target audiences as well as stakeholders on sugar reduction tactics and promote voluntary schemes for food outlets to support healthier choices.
The city will be asked to share views through a postcard and online survey, social media including Twitter and Facebook and focus groups and events. The campaign is designed to create the UKs first Sugar Smart City and will use the hashtag #SugarSmartCity in the social media debate.
St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in the city has taken steps to reduce sugar intake among pupils by instilling a whole school approach.
Headteacher Sarah Clayton said, “Our Year 6 Leadership Team led assemblies on promoting healthy snacks along with showing children the level of sugar in food and drink that we are not aware of. The children introduced a competition to design a healthy snack with the winners from each class having their snacks created and available for others to try at their Healthy Snack Road Show.
“During the road show we had stalls to encourage pupils to try something different and information about the effects of sugar on our teeth. The hall was packed with parents and children and many left having tried something new! I’m really pleased others are being encouraged to do the same, it’s vital to give young people the best start in life and educate them on the affects that sugar can have on their bodies as well as inform them of snack swap ideas.”
Other schools across the city are running initiatives to meet new recommendations for free sugar and fibre. Schools provider Eden provides products that limit sugar through portion control, so that for example fruit juices are only permitted a maximum portion size of 150ml, and confectionary is not permitted. Portions are restricted for biscuits, cakes and puddings, high sugars are reduced and wholegrain ingredients included.
Council-owned leisure centres across the city have also taken action. Freedom Leisure, which runs many centres on behalf of the council, has undertaken a ‘healthy vending’ pilot at Withdean Sports Complex which has since been rolled out to the King Alfred. Sales data shows that the top seller in these machines is water followed by sparkling water and healthier snacks. This will influence future provision.
Independent school Brighton College has come on board and is committed to raising funds for primary schools across the city to introduce food education for every child with Greenman Garden Tools supplying 100 free tools to the first 10 schools taking part. The college will raise funds and also support other schools with their students helping support cookery and vegetable growing as part of their community support programme.