The director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published an open letter to the NHS complaining of its “demonisation” of sugar. 

Ian Wright wrote the letter in response to Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, following his appearance on the Andrew Marr Show and interview in The Times this week.

While Wright supported the aim to tackle obesity, he argued that it is unfair to characterise an everyday ingredient such as sugar as “poison”. He said the FDF is committed to working with the government against the issue of obesity and is proud to be a founding signatory of the Responsibility Deal.

The letter said: “As you acknowledge, a world-leading salt reduction programme is at the forefront of these achievements, having helped reduce population intakes by 15%. We have also worked on increasing fibre, micronutrients, fruit and vegetable content in recipes and have virtually eliminated artificial trans fats in products. 

“We have reduced calories through recipe reformulations, including sugar and saturated fat reductions, to iconic products and changed portion sizes. In particular, through the use of low calorie sweeteners, significant reformulations have been made in carbonated beverages, dairy desserts and yoghurt, confectionery and table-top sweeteners.

“It is clear that excessive consumption of sugar can lead to overconsumption of calories and to weight gain. 

“We are very open to discussions on how the industry can best contribute to improve public health I would welcome the opportunity to meet you and discuss the industry’s achievements and how we can continue the process of collaboration in improving public health.”