UK sets sugar reduction targets for juice and milk-based drinks

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Milkshakes and fruit juices are exempt from the UK's sugar tax - but can still contain high amounts of sugar. Pic: getty/mindstyle
Milkshakes and fruit juices are exempt from the UK's sugar tax - but can still contain high amounts of sugar. Pic: getty/mindstyle

Related tags sugar tax Uk Fruit juice Dairy

Juice and milk-based drinks are currently exempt from the UK’s sugar tax: but Public Health England has set out targets for sugar reduction in these categories – and says that progress will be taken into account when it reviews the milk-based drinks exemption in 2020.

Milkshakes, sweetened coffees, hot chocolates, juices and smoothies are all expected to adhere to new guidelines in PHE’s sugar reduction programme, which is part of the government’s childhood obesity plan. This includes pre-packaged drinks and those sold in restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets.

By the middle of 2021, the government wants to see the drinks industry achieve the following targets:

  • reduce sugar in juice-based drinks (excluding 100% fruit or vegetable juice) by 5%;
  • cap all juices intended for consumption in a single occasion (including blended juices, smoothies and single juices) to 150 calories
  • reduce sugar in milk-based drinks (and milk substitutes including soya, oats, hemp and nuts) by 20% and cap products likely to be consumed in a single occasion to 300 calories

Such targets are to be achieved by reducing the levels of sugar in products, reducing portion sizes, or promoting lower sugar alternatives, suggests PHE.

Fruit juice: 10% of children's sugar consumption​ 

Fruit juice and milk-based drinks have been excluded from the UK’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy​ on the basis of their nutritional value.

However, PHE says these categories also have their role to play in sugar reduction. Fruit juice alone accounts for around 10% of the sugar consumed by 4-18 year-olds daily, it says.

Overall, children currently consume more than double the recommended level of sugar.

Samantha Montel nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Milkshakes, hot chocolates and juice drinks can make a significant contribution to children’s sugar intakes. Consuming too much sugar is one of the main causes of children leaving primary school overweight or obese and suffering with tooth decay. 

“The drinks industry has a key role to play in helping to tackle this by reducing the amount of sugar we buy and consume. We’ve already seen positive signs from this sector and hope to see them step up even more to the challenge.”

PHE’s advice to the public to limit juice or smoothies to a total of 150ml per day - and only consume with meals - remains unchanged. 150ml of juice or smoothie counts as a maximum of one portion of the 5-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables.

PHE has challenged the food industry to reduce sugar across a number of food categories by 20% by 2020.

Related news

Follow us


View more