Over 100 schools across the country have limited sugar and become certified SUGARWISE ahead of the National scheme’s official launch on 24th June. The scheme is launching across the UK initially with Ireland, Germany and Belgium, who also have no sugar limits for children, being added before the end of the year.
The School Food Standards, which all British Schools must adhere to, shockingly places no limit on the amount of sugar children consume, even of the “free sugars” that are linked to obesity, tooth decay and type 2 diabetes. With breakfast and after school clubs routinely providing pancakes, syrups, croissants, jam and hot chocolate, puddings daily after lunches, birthdays where treats are shared out, cake sales, tuck shops, competition prizes and celebrations like Christmas and Easter, some children may consume as much as up to 30 x the recommended maximum across a whole school day, or up to 10 x the daily recommended limit across a typical school day.
On Monday 24th June SUGARWISE, the international authority for certification of sugar related claims, launches its scheme to certify schools with support from MPs, MEPs, nutritionists and Cambridge University Scientists.
Rend Platings, Sugarwise Founder says: “I was shocked to hear my daughter could live a shorter life than me. I could not believe that the School Food Standards which schools in the UK have to follow, and that limit things like breaded food to twice a week, places no limits at all on added sugar. It’s an absolute outrage. The World Health Organisation and the government agree that free sugars should account for no more than 5% of daily calories. We are now, through the SUGARWISE certification, highlighting the schools that adhere to these guidelines.”
Dr Giles Yeo, Cambridge University says: “Obesity levels are soaring and the costs of inaction will be devastating. SUGARWISE certification of schools is a positive and pragmatic means of addressing this challenge. By getting certified, schools and caterers demonstrate their commitment to doing their part in reducing sugar intake in children and show they are serious about following public health guidelines. As part of the broader strategy to reduce levels of obesity in children, we would hope to see many more schools be certified. Every single school that participates in the scheme is making an incremental and important contribution to the solution.”
Nourish Contract Catering, the first catering company to adopt the certification, are conscious of rising obesity levels in children and promote the importance of a balanced diet to one’s overall health. They aim, through wholesome lunchtime meals, to guarantee the nutrients and vitamins a child needs, with a variety of carbohydrates, protein and fibre. While their menus have been fully compliant with School Food Standards and they have always taken pride in providing nutritious but tasty food, they felt that more could be done on sugar reduction.
Annette Ryan-Murphy, Managing Director of Nourish says: “Nourish Contract Catering are proud to be the first to be awarded the SUGARWISE mark for our Primary School menus. This means our menus are the first to provide options low in “free sugars” – the sugars that need to be limited in the diet as they are contributors to childhood obesity and tooth decay. We have one SUGARWISE day a week with no free sugars in any of our dishes. This helps to keep weekly average sugar intake down to public health guideline amounts. We believe in the importance of ensuring all food served to our children meets SUGARWISE’s rigorous standards. We hope that more schools and caterers follow suit in the interest of safeguarding the health of the children and communities they serve.”
The absence of guidelines on sugar in the School Food Standards have meant that children have routinely been consuming far too much over their school day, with consequences for obesity and other health problems.
Vinicius Ferreira, Sugarwise Chief Scientist, says: “An overwhelming majority of children far exceed their added sugar target on a daily basis. We have developed the SUGARWISE certification for schools to help us regain control of the situation. If Sugarwise encourages schools and caterers directly to address added sugar content for children the benefits will be huge.” The challenge is not just a UK one, with Sugarwise uncovering a similar scenario across the European Union.
Lucy Nethsingha MEP says: “Across many European countries including Germany, Belgium and the UK, there are no limits legally set on how much sugar children consume in schools. I’m delighted to help launch the sugar label for Europe and would hope that as many as possible of our European schools will participate. It is a great way of demonstrating their commitment to sugar reduction and children’s health. We know that unless we act decisively, the obesity crisis will overwhelm health systems across Europe.”
It is not only obesity and tooth decay that are a concern but worrying a rise in the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes among children is now being seen.
RT Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Diabetes says: “Type 2 Diabetes affected over 500 children in the UK last year. Adult onset Diabetes is completely preventable and something no child should ever suffer. The fact that the School Food Standards, which all schools must follow, do not place any limits on sugar is a disgrace. We cannot afford not to act. Today’s launch of this marque represents our determination to safeguard children’s health, and not fail in our duty of care to them. I would like to see all schools following public health guidelines on sugar and demonstrating their commitment to health through certification by 2022.