These commitments are an extension to the Milan Declaration, signed in August 2015, in which food giants including Nestlé, Bio-Familia and Emmi have pledged to voluntarily reduce sugar content in their products. The declaration did not specify any specific targets.
This latest action provides further clarification, with firm agreements put in place to reduce sugars added in yoghurt by 2.5% and by 5% contained in cereals by the end of 2018.
Along with Danone and Kellogg, the agreement is strengthened with supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl adding their name, making a total of 14 food producers signing up to the initiative.
“With the new targets, Swiss food producers and retailers are setting a clear signal,” said the Swiss Confederation's Federal Department of Home Affairs.
“As cooperation with food producers has proved successful, the Milan Declaration is to be continued by 2018 within the framework of the Swiss Food Strategy. Further food groups are to be approached and the work on salt and fats intensified.”
“The voluntary approach has worked very well so far,” said head of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs Alain Berset at a news conference in Germany. “Everyone is now on board.”
What is the Milan Declaration?
The Milan Declaration is a commitment drawn up by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) along with the Italian Society of Obesity (SIO).
It was announced on 6 June 2015 at Milan EXPO with an objective to provide leadership, guidance and support to governments in reducing the burden of unhealthy excess weight in Europe.
The declaration is part of a Swiss government food strategy that sets out its approach in reformulating popular food such as yoghurts and breakfast cereals up till 2024.
While France, Ireland, Britain have introduced, or are about to impose a sugar levy on sugary-sweetened soft drinks, Switzerland have so far resisted calls to follow suit with their own special sugar tax.
“The average Swiss person consumes around 44 kilograms of sugar per year,” said Swiss dairy product company Emmi in response to the Milan Declaration update.
“This is a valid reason for the Federal Council to put an end to the high sugar content of everyday products such as muesli. Emmi was one of ten food producers to sign the Milan Declaration in August 2015, witnessed by Federal Councillor Alain Berset.
“By signing, the participating Swiss food manufacturers committed to reducing the sugar content in muesli and yogurts over the long term.“
Sugar survey stats
The Swiss Food Strategy took the next step in the summer of 2016, where the Swiss Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs (BLV) carried out a research project on the health risks of sugar.
The collected data showed that yoghurts contained an average of 17 grams (g) sugar per cup (180g), while breakfast cereals average 18g sugar per 100g.
At the end of August of this year, the results of the second sugar content survey showed that the average sugar content has fallen by about 3% in the yoghurts, and even about 5% in breakfast cereals.
The data on the sugar content are collected annually in order to check the promised reduction of the sugar and thus the effect of the declaration of Milan.
In addition to the survey, the BLV has also looked into how much sugar can be reduced in yogurt and cereals without reducing the quality of the products. Results are expected by 2019.