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Obesity plan 'missed opportunity'

18 Aug 2016

The Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)) and the Faculty of Dental Surgery have welcomed confirmation of the proposed tax on sugary drinks, but say they are disappointed that the government’s new Childhood Obesity Action Plan has otherwise ignored oral health and failed to deliver Public Health England’s other recommendations to reduce the nation’s sugar intake.

The Sugar Levy, announced earlier this year, will impose a tiered tax on sugary soft drinks other than fruit juices and milk - adding for instance 48 pence to the price of a two litre bottle of lemonade - which will raise £520m a year from 2018. However, this was only one of eight recommendations made by Public Health England in response to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s guidance that sugar should be reduced to 5% of energy intake.

The government’s new Childhood Obesity Action Plan, despite taking years to materialise, runs to only 13 pages and has ignored recommendations to curb price promotions and tighten advertising restrictions for high sugar products, and watered down the call for mandatory reformulation into a voluntary programme.

FGDP(UK) Dean, Dr Mick Horton, responded:

“Eating and drinking too much sugar can cause tooth decay, obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer, yet as a nation we consume a third more than we did 25 years ago and almost three times the recommended amount. A single can of cola contains more than a child’s reference intake of sugar for an entire day, so is it any surprise that two in ten children in England are obese by the time they leave primary school, or that tooth extraction is the primary reason why children are admitted to hospital?

“While we’re pleased to see the commitment to the Sugar Levy, in not restricting advertising and price promotions, nor investing in providing dietary and preventative oral health advice, the government has missed a golden opportunity to empower the public to make healthier choices and tackle the rise in avoidable dental extractions.”

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, said:

“We have continually drawn attention to the impact sugar has on children’s oral health. While we welcome the proposed sugar tax as a big step forward, although the revenue it raises could be used to fund more oral health programmes, the lack of ambition outlined in this Government document leaves a sour taste in the mouth of dentists who have fought hard for tougher measures. The average five year old child eats their own weight in sugar each year so it is crystal clear that much more needs to be done. We will continue to push new ministers hard on further action to protect the nation’s oral health.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) is based at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. It provides services to help those in general dental practice to raise standards of patient care. It does this through standards setting, providing education courses and assessments, CPD, policy development, research and publications. Membership of FGDP(UK) is open to dentists and other registered dental professionals.
  2. The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling dentists and specialists to provide patients with the highest possible standards of practice and care.
  3. A copy of the Faculty of Dental Surgery’s report, The state of children’s oral health in England, can be accessed here
  4. The Department of Health’s Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action is available here
  5. Public Health England’s report, Sugar Reduction: The Evidence For Action, is available here
  6. For FGDP(UK) enquiries, please contact Jamie Woodward, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, on 020 7869 6759 or email
  7. Receive the latest news and updates from FGDP(UK) by following us @FGDP_UK on Twitter or on Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Linkedin.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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