News Children's Food Campaign

PHE's voluntary reformulation targets are not enough

Research finds companies have made limited changes to the healthiness of foods and drinks in response to Public Health England's voluntary reformulation targets.

Credit: Barbara Crowther

Credit: Barbara Crowther

The results from the Nuffield Department of Population Health research show that there was little change in the average nutrient profiling score of the top ten companies. Additionally, of the top five brands sold by the ten companies, only six brands had improved their nutrient profiling score by 20% or more between 2015 and 2018.

This is the first time the overall healthiness of foods and drink has been analysed since the introduction of PHE's voluntary reformulation targets and it concurs with previous findings that demonstrated voluntary measures prompted little improvement in the healthiness of foods. Previous research from this group has also shown that between 2015-18, less than half of the leading food brands in the UK had met PHE's voluntary 5% sugar reduction target.

The finding contrasts with the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy which, as a mandatory measure, has spurred on advances in reformulation and has consequently prompted a reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks. It is, to date, the only area which has seen significant progress on improving the healthiness of products.

Fran Bernhardt, Children's Food Campaign Coordinator said:

This research is further indication that voluntary measures simply do not work. Companies have had years to voluntarily improve the healthiness of their products but have not risen to the challenge, instead continuing to flood the market with unhealthy foods and drinks. The mandatory Soft Drinks Industry Levy has been the only measure to make a real impact so it is clear the Government must introduce stronger policies such as taxes on salt and sugar to improve the healthiness of food and drinks and safeguard the health of all our children.

Published 11 Aug 2021

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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