Call to make schools sugar-free

SCHOOLS in England should be encouraged to go sugar-free in a bid to tackle worrying levels of child tooth decay.

The call came from the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS). Its latest figures show that more than 100,000 hospital admissions for children under 10 in England in the three years to March 2018 were due to tooth decay.

In a new position statement, the FDS also called on the government to speed up the implementation of initiatives such as supervised tooth brushing schemes. According to the Faculty’s analysis in England, almost a quarter of five-year-olds (23 per cent) have visible decay. A third of five year olds living in the most deprived areas of England have tooth decay compared to just 14 per cent in the least deprived. Two-fifths of under-18s (41 per cent) did not visit an NHS dentist in 2018, rising to 77 per cent of those aged one and two.

As well as being distressing in itself, the FDS emphasised the wider consequences for children with the condition, often causing problems with sleeping, eating and socialising.

FDS Dean Professor Michael Escudier acknowledged progress had been made since the Faculty launched its children’s oral health campaign in 2015, including the sugar tax on soft drinks. But he said it was "incredibly worrying" that levels of decay amongst children in England remained so high.

He said: "The FDS believes that limiting the availability of surgery foods and drinks in schools is essential to reducing the amount of sugar our children consume.

"While the government has committed to reviewing school food standards, we would like to see them go beyond this to encourage all schools in England to become sugar free. We would also support the publication of nutritional guidelines for packed lunches."

He also said it was "vital" the new government stand by previous commitments on sugar reduction, in particular, proposals to restrict price and location promotions for products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) and tightening regulations on TV and in online advertising.

Other measures supported by the Faculty include extending the sugar tax to dairy drinks, reducing the amount of sugar in baby foods and maintaining local authority public health budgets.