Dentists say ‘cake culture’ – celebrating success or special occasions with sweet treats – has made the workplace a main site of sugar consumption for many Brits.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS), part of the Royal College of Surgeons, is urging employers and employees to take action to cut back on sugar consumption in the office.
The FDS, which supports the soft drinks industry levy, set to be introduced next April, has also called for restrictions on price promotions on sugary goods.
Citing NHS data, the faculty said 64,000 over-18s had been admitted to hospital because of tooth decay in 2015-16.
It is advising businesses to take action, such as keeping sugary products out of sight and marking a number of birthdays with a single cake (see below). The faculty also suggested substituting sugary products in meetings, such as biscuits, for lower-sugar alternatives, such as plain nuts and fruit.
“Celebrating success with colleagues is a fundamental part of modern office culture, and treating ourselves once in a while to mark something significant can play an important part in this,” said the FDS.
“However, with the rise of cake culture the workplace is becoming one of the main places we consume sugar, so we must find the right balance and think carefully about the impact of what we eat at work on our wider health.”
Employers should also signpost to staff government advice about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good oral health, and promote public health messages such as the importance of exercising regularly and staying active.
“With many people likely to start 2017 with new determination to eat more healthily and lose weight, it is important to remember that there are small but significant things employees and employers can do to reduce sugar consumption in the office,” added the FDS.
Tighter rules on price promotions and the in-store location of sugary products would help to reduce sugar purchases,” said the FDS.
“The government should work with supermarkets and other food retailers to restrict price promotions on sugary products, and replace high-sugar foods at the point of sale with healthier alternatives,” it added. “If necessary, legislation should be introduced in future to address this.”
FDS’ tips for reducing sugar consumption at work
- Consider low-sugar alternatives: Colleagues appreciate it when someone buys treats for the team. But rather than always buying sugary goods like biscuits and sweets, consider substituting them for low-sugar alternatives.
- Reduce portion sizes: Choose the small bag rather than the big one.
- Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat: If someone brings cake or sweets to the office, avoid snacking throughout the day and only consume sugary goods at lunchtime.
- Develop a sugar schedule to help limit your team’s sugar intake: One way to limit sugar consumption is to organise a sugar schedule. For example, if there are birthdays on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, arrange to have cake at Friday lunchtime to celebrate all three, rather than on each individual day.
- Think carefully about where cake and sugar is positioned: Research suggests people will eat more sweets if they are nearby and visible than if they are placed further away. Think about where sugary products are positioned in the office and put them out of eyesight.