Martyn Leek, British Baker editor, breaks today’s SACN report down in a way that bakers can take heart from its dietary recommendations. 

So, the worst-kept secret for some time has now been “officially” revealed and the government has recommended we should halve our daily intake of sugar. But, as we all know, there is a huge difference between recommending and enforcing.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England, has today said that no more than 5% of the daily calorie intake should come from ‘free’ or added sugars.

And while, on the face of it, this may appear a bad thing there is another part of today’s recommendations that should be fully embraced by the baking industry.

Firstly though, let’s tackle sugar. There can be no doubt that today’s 5% recommendation represents a huge challenge. It will be difficult for the government, the baking industry and, more importantly, for the public to achieve.

When faced with the arguments from the health lobby, they are indeed compelling. We are in the grip of an obesity epidemic, there are huge dental issues with children and the cost to the nation runs into the millions. But, what about the cost of personal responsibility? Like the advert, I’d suggest it’s priceless.

At the end of the day we all control what we put into our own mouths.

Talking of responsibility I know first-hand how well the baking industry takes this. I rarely meet a baker or company that does not have a reformulation project on the go. It was the vanguard in the work to reduce salt and it will respond to today’s challenge with equal gusto.

Support bread as a major source of fibre

But there is part of today’s announcement that the industry can also take on-board and run with. In January British Baker launched its WeLoveBread awareness campaign. This was prompted by David Cameron’s ill-advised proclamations that he’d given up bread in a bid to lose weight. Here at British Baker we collectively felt Cameron’s comments merely added weight to the serious misconceptions around bread. These misconceptions are borne out in bread sales and this staple is perceived as unhealthy.

The headlines regarding SACN will most likely all be around sugar. But it is the recommendations around fibre that bakers should take to their hearts. The report says that people should up their in-take of fibre from 23-24g a day to 30g.  This fibre element is not to be overlooked and bakers should shout about the qualities of bread. This should be the part of SACN that bakers take heart from. They should show the world that WeLoveBread; that bread has fibre and that we need more fibre.

In the end however there is only so much the industry can do. It’s about educating the public and then trusting that they take responsibility for their own actions – and unfortunately nothing can sweeten that difficult truth to swallow.