Juice and milkshake manufacturers are urged to slash sugar from drinks

Juice and milkshake manufacturers are urged to slash sugar and calories from popular drinks to combat childhood obesity

  • Companies selling juices are urged to cut their sugar content by 5% by mid-2021
  • Smoothies drunk ‘in one go’ should contain no more than 300 calories
  • Milkshake manufacturers should reduce sugar by 20% and cap calories at 300
  • Pure fruit juice and milk-based drinks are exempt from the sugar tax on drinks
  • Health officials claim fruit juice makes up 10% of sugar consumed by children  
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Juice and milkshake manufacturers have been urged to slash sugar and calories from their popular drinks.

Public Health England (PHE) has challenged companies selling juice-based drinks to cut their sugar contents by five per cent by mid-2021.

Drinks that are designed to be ‘consumed in one go’, such as smoothies, should contain no more than 300 calories, PHE adds. 

PHE is also urging milkshake manufacturers to reduce their drinks’ sugar levels by 20 per cent and cap calories at 300.

The sugar tax, which came into effect last month, levies drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml a cost of 24p per litre, while those containing 5-to-8g of sugar per 100ml are hit with a 18p per litre tax.

Pure fruit juices are exempt due to them not containing added sugar, while milk-based beverages are also not taxed as a result of their high calcium contents.

PHE, which is working to reduce childhood obesity, claims fruit juice alone makes up 10 per cent of the sugar consumed by four to 18-year-olds.

Public Health England has challenged juice and milkshake manufacturers to cut their drinks’ sugar and calorie contents by mid-2021 to reduce children’s sugar intakes 


What is the sugar tax?

From April 6, soft drinks companies will be required to pay a levy on drinks with added sugar.

Why are the Government introducing the tax? 

The move aims to help tackle childhood obesity. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks are now the single biggest source of dietary sugar for children and teenagers.

It is hoped the tax will encourage drinks companies to cut down on the amount of sugar in drinks, and consumers to choose lower sugar alternatives.  

How much is the tax? 

Companies will have to pay 18p per litre of drink if the product contains more than 5g of sugar per 100 millilitres and 24p per litre if it contains 8g of sugar per 100 millilitres.

Prices of popular drinks may rise and the size of portions shrink as a result. 

Will it apply to all drinks?

The new levy will not be paid on milk-based drinks and fruit juices.

However George Osborne, who unveiled the tax policy as chancellor, has predicted that the tax will be extended to include milkshakes with large quantities of sugar. 

‘Much more must be done’    

PHE claims juice and milk drinks’ exemption from the soft drinks industry levy will be reviewed by the Government in 2020.

Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist at Action on Sugar, from Queen Mary University, said: ‘Whilst we welcome PHE’s first assessment of progress on the government’s sugar reduction programme, it’s evident that much more must be done – particularly on biscuits, chocolate confectionery, puddings and the large portions of high sugar products sold in the out of home sector. 

‘It’s unfair and ridiculous that the out of home sector products are not being reformulated to the same extent. 

‘Much stricter measures need to be in place to ensure progress is being made by the food industry and that the 20 per cent sugar reduction target is met.’ 

A spokesperson from The British Fruit Juice Association (BFJA), added: ‘the BFJA supports the sugar reduction initiative and is pleased to see that public health authorities recognise that the sugars in pure fruit juice cannot be removed or be reformulated, and are excluded from the sales weight average for reduction in sugar content. 

‘PHE’s recommended daily portion size for fruit juice is up to 150ml. This portion size delivers a wealth of essential nutrients and vitamins such as potassium, folate, and vitamin C and counts as one of your five-a-day.

‘It is important that any sugar-reduction targets put on this category do not inadvertently undermine sources of fibre. 

‘As such, we would like to see a higher-calorie guideline for smoothies made with at least 80g of whole crushed fruit to recognise the nutritional contribution and importance of fibre to a healthy diet.’ 

Despite containing more than 8g of sugar per 100ml, many milk-based drinks were exempt from the sugar tax due to their high calcium contents supposedly making them healthier 

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