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Bitter twist to Tesco’s sugar cut; unbalancing the economy

The battle against killer sugar has been stepped up. After Percy Pig, it’s the turn of Ribena and Capri-Sun to get a blacklisting order.

Terry MurdenIn the battle against obesity – and a backlash from health-conscious shoppers – food retailers are taking further steps to reduce products with high sugar content.

Marks & Spencer said last week that it will move chocolates, sweets and Percy Pigs far from the till in an attempt to promote a healthier diet.

Tesco today announced that cartons of drinks such as Ribena and Capri-Sun marketed directly for children will no longer be stocked.

It should be noted – and campaigners have already done so – that Tesco is reducing, not banning, sugary drinks.

Reports in The Grocer and The Independent have given the impression of a tougher stance. Not so. As a spokesman for Tesco  tells me, shoppers will still be able to buy bottles of Ribena, including the full sugar version. Sugar-free cartons aimed at children will also remain on sale.

In a brief statement the company said that from September all the children’s juice drinks the company sells will have no added sugar in them “because we know it’ll make a positive difference to children’s health.”

Earlier this year Tesco made a public commitment to reduce the sugar content of its own-brand soft drinks by 5% each year, on top of four and a half billion calories it has already cut from the range.

Last year, the firm’s chief executive Dave Lewis launched Project Reset, and urged suppliers to remove added sugar from children’s drinks.

The firm also banned sweets and chocolates from its checkouts, and pledged to replace the items with healthy alternatives.

However, the policy still looks a little ambivalent. Does the company think children only drink from cartons? As such there is no restriction on bottles and cans of any drink, including Irn-Bru or Coca-Cola, even though they are popular with children.

There other loopholes and weaknesses. Tesco, for instance, was criticised after crisps were found to have replaced sugary products.

The Children’s Food Campaign wants the government to intervene and introduce a tax on sugary drinks, though this would have no effect on deterring children from pestering their parents.

Unbalancing the economy

Good news on the GDP figures: up strongly and showing the recovery is under way. The bad news is that economy is becoming ever more skewed towards services.

This was not supposed to happen. The UK government promised a rebalancing away from financial services in particular and on which London depends hugely.

A focus on manufacturing – if there ever was one – has not worked so that its share of the economy is even smaller than it was before the recession.

The country still doesn’t make or export enough tangible goods.

That means we either do more to rebuild the manufacturing base, or the government eases off on its attacks on the financial services which are helping to produce the growth figures it now boasts about.

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