UK yogurt producers are to meet officials from Public Health England next month in a bid to get a “clearer definition” of what health chiefs consider to be added sugars in products.

The move follows the publication in the summer of what critics said was a watered down plan by the UK government to combat child obesity in England. Yogurt was identified as one of nine food categories for action aimed at voluntarily reducing the level of added sugars up to 2020.

The plan set out “a broad, structured sugar reduction programme” and challenged food and drink manufacturers to reduce overall sugar across a range of products by at least 20% over the next four years. Yogurt was identified as one of nine initial category-specific targets for sugar reduction over the next four years. 

Andrew Kuyk, the director-general of the UK’s Provision Trade Federation (PTF) told just-food today (21 October) that manufacturers needed to have a clearer understanding of how health chiefs intend to measure progress and of what are considered to be added sugars.

Kuyk said: “We need to know what they are measuring because in any dairy product there are intrinsic sugars, so what allowance is Public Health England making for those? Producers need to know the definition of added sugar in that respect. For example, if a manufacturer puts in a fruit flavouring, which naturally contains sugar, is that considered as a manufacturer-added sugar?”

“It is not simply possible for a company to change its processes from one day to the next,” Kuyk said. He said while the government obesity plan called for voluntary moves by manufacturers to cut sugar – which would be assessed over the next 18 months and subsequent 36 months – there was a “veiled threat” that action would be taken against those who failed to meet targets.

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By GlobalData

The PTF, whose members include the majority of yogurt producers, has been invited to meet Public Health England on 1 November. Individual yogurt manufacturers have also been invited, Kuyk said. “After the meeting, we will then have to discuss with our members about how they want us to proceed.”