We’re getting Sugar Smart – working together for a healthier future

Brighton & Hove unveiled the #SugarSmartCity initiative last October and became the first UK city to tackle sugar addiction on a city-wide scale.

The Sugar Smart City campaign set out to raise awareness of the devastating harm caused by over consumption of sugar as part of a drive to help reduce obesity and improve dental health. Residents, schools, food outlets and the groups across the city were asked whether we should be taking action on sugar in Brighton & Hove and, if so, what form that action should take.

Through Sugar Smart, Brighton & Hove City Council has formed a unique partnership with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership to launch a city wide approach to tackling the obesity crisis.

The results from the initial consultation show a growing awareness of the sugar content in widely consumed soft drinks and a desire to see change.

The results from the Sugar Smart City consultation* show:

  • 81 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about sugar in food and drink
  • 71 per cent said their concern about sugar in food and drink has risen in recent years
  • 82 per cent said action should be taken to help people in the city reduce their sugar intake
  • 87 per cent strongly supported a call for food outlets to promote healthier options
  • 80 per cent said secondary schools should help reduce sugary drink intake for pupils
  • 71 per cent said they would like to reduce their sugar intake

* The consultation received 1,136 responses to the online and postcard survey. More than 130 food outlets and 20 schools contributed to the debate.

Cllr Dan Yates, chair of Brighton & Hove’s health and wellbeing board, said: “Brighton & Hove’s Sugar Smart campaign is a trailblazing and unique attempt to begin a campaign across the city. We aim to raise awareness about and reduce consumption of sugar in every age group. As a city, we are leading the way in tackling the terrifying obesity crisis we are facing and giving our children a better chance of a healthier happier future.

“The amount of sugar which has crept into our diets has extremely serious consequences on our future health. As the levels of sugar in food and drink have risen, so too have the instances of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. The Sugar Smart City initiative is about finding ways to reduce sugar intake, making simple lifestyle changes which can make a big difference whether at home or out and about.”

Businesses across the city are making sugar smart commitments as part of the ongoing campaign, including promoting free drinking water, using offers to influence choices and displaying posters to raise awareness of the sugar content of drinks available.

Jamie Oliver launched a campaign with his SUGAR RUSH documentary on Channel Four in which he announced he would be introducing a 10p Sugar Tax on all drinks with added sugar in his restaurants, including Jamie’s Italian on Black Lion Lane. The proceeds all going to the Children’s Health Fund which supports food and health education projects all across the country.

The Sugar Smart campaign is encouraging other restaurants, businesses and food outlets across the city to sign up and support the Children’s Health Fund.  

The University of Brighton is leading the way. The university is due to introduce a sugar levy across the campus in time for the next academic year as well as displaying Sugar Smart messaging around vending machines and café’s.     

Jamie Oliver said: “I’m hugely excited that the University of Brighton is joining the Sugar Smart campaign. It's brilliant to hear that they're introducing a levy on sugary drinks to help raise awareness about the long-term damage too much sugar can have on our health, and empowering us all to reduce it in our diets. We're facing a growing obesity crisis; with more than four million people in the UK diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, the need for action is more urgent than ever. Students of all ages need to be more aware of the dangers sugar consumption can have on our long-term health. 

“I really believe that we need a comprehensive strategy to turn the tide of diet-related disease and get back on track. It's not about banning sugar altogether, a piece of cake for a special treat is totally fine, but we need to understand that by reducing the way we eat and drink sugar we can have a huge impact on improving our health. Paired with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet, we can all lead a healthier, happier life.”   

Elsewhere in the city, Sussex County Cricket Club is introducing a sugar levy in their historic ground in Hove and the club will also be transforming their Kids Packed lunches this season.    

Freedom Leisure is joining the campaign and will be running Sugar Smart Activities during their Junior Summer Fitness Challenge. From June 2016, Freedom Leisure will be displaying sugar smart posters around their venues in the city. A healthy lunch box campaign will also be introduced as part of the Freedom Leisure holiday clubs.

Vic Borrill, Director, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, said: “It is great to see so many organisations saying that our health matters to them and that they willing to take action to be sugar smart. Residents asked for more information about how much sugar is in the food and drink they buy so well done to Freedom Leisure, the cricket club and the University of Brighton for responding. To help at home the Food Partnership has produce a handy little Sugar Smart booklet.” The booklet can be found at: http://bhfood.org.uk/sugar-smart

The health reasons for altering sugar consumption are wide ranging. Locally one in four children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, while nationally people are eating three times as much sugar as they should. In Brighton & Hove alone more than 300 children were admitted to hospital for a general anaesthetic for multiple teeth extraction in 2012/13 and treating diet related diseases costs the NHS in Brighton & Hove £80 million year.

To take the message to the city’s children, there have already been events held in schools and breakfast clubs in recent months, with much more planned for the year ahead.

The first phase of working towards a Sugar Smart City was all about debate to find out what needs to be done to combat the city’s unhealthy addiction to sugar.

Now it is time to work together to make the changes which will lead to a healthier future.

People are being encouraged to share healthy recipes on social media using #sugarsmartcity The best recipes will be published on our www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sugarsmart page.

One way food outlets across the city can help raise awareness is by displaying new Sugar Smart posters and stickers which clearly show how many teaspoons of sugar are in various drinks, starting with 0 teaspoons of sugar in a 500ml bottle of water and rising to more than double the recommended daily intake in 500ml of some of the popular fizzy brands on the market. To request free copies of the Sugar Smart posters and stickers email: EHL.Food@brighton-hove.gov.uk

In 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published recommendations that the average population intake of free sugars should not exceed five per cent of total dietary energy for age groups from two upwards. Free sugars are described as all sugars added to food and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. The SACN also advised that children and adults should minimise consumption of sugar sweetened drinks.

For more information on how to be Sugar Smart have a look at: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sugarsmart The information is divided into support for families, food businesses and schools, covering handy ways to identify products with a high sugar content and practical ways to improve diet.

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