UK government ‘in the pocket’ of sugar industry – will ignore WHO guidelines halving sugar consumption

Professor Macdonald

A radical UN recommendation to halve sugar intake will not be implemented in Britain says a Whitehall adviser on nutrition who has worked for Mars and Coca-Cola.

Professor Ian MacDonald, head of a panel of health experts in charge of drawing up guidelines on sugar, said it will ‘not act’ on the World Health Organisation’s proposal.

The move led to fury yesterday as senior doctors and MPs accused officials of ‘immense arrogance’ for ignoring the suggested limit of six teaspoons a day, in the face of an obesity crisis that threatens to overwhelm the NHS.

And campaigners last night accused Professor MacDonald – who only recently left the pay of the two fast food giants – of being ‘in the pocket’ of the sugar industry.

He is one of six scientists on the panel of eight who have links to manufacturers of sugary foods, including the world’s largest chocolate maker and fizzy drinks producers.

The row comes amid growing concern over the high levels of sugar in everyday foods, which experts believe is a major contributor to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Around a quarter of adults in Britain are obese but this is predicted to soar to more than half the population by 2050 and cost the economy £50billion a year.

An average adult eats between 11 and 12  teaspoons of sugar a day – double the new recommendation – while children consume as many as 15.

But referring to the WHO guidelines, Professor MacDonald said: ‘The position, I’ve been informed by the officials, is that actually we would take note of it but we would not act on it.’

He added that the Government would take the recommendations of his own panel, the Carbohydrate Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, rather than those of the WHO.

Graham MacGregor, of the group Action on Sugar and professor of cardiology at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, accused Professor MacDonald of ‘arrogance’ about the extent of the health crisis posed by sugar.

He said: ‘To say that he is going to ignore the WHO has an immense amount of arrogance about it.

‘Given the fact we are facing an obesity crisis, what is his plan? … it’s a real timebomb.

‘Obesity and diabetes are going to overwhelm the health service in terms of cost. We have to do something.’

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘Ian MacDonald is a leading figure in his discipline.

‘The problem is his research money is so dependent on these firms that you have to ask the question, is he in their pocket?’

Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s shadow public health minister, accused the Government of being ‘too close to big businesses to do what’s best for our nation’s health’.

The SACN is expected to produce its own sugar guidelines in June.


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Thanks to the Daily Mail for this article

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