LEADING dentists are urging workers and their employers to cut cake culture in workplaces as part of their New Year’s resolutions.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) is concerned that the workplace is now the main place where many people will eat sugar and that it is contributing to the obesity epidemic and poor oral health. It is offering five top tips to help workers resist sweet treats in the office and make healthier choices.
Its stance is being backed by Worcestershire County Council – a major employer in the county and the authority responsible for public health locally.
Councillor John Smith, Worcestershire County Council cabinet member for Health and Well-Being said: "The county council fully supports the important message about looking after our teeth and health at work.
"The county council is an active participant in Worcestershire Works Well, an accreditation scheme to promote good health and well-being of employees in workplaces.”
He recognised that some employers and managers like to reward staff with cakes or chocolates when they have achieved great results but he wanted to encourage them to consider healthier options.
"We don't want to stop good work being recognised but urge employers and employees to take a look at the tips listed by the Faculty of Dental Surgery and see what we all can do to make sure we stay healthy in the workplace," he added.
Last Christmas, confectionery was the fastest growing food category in value sales for UK supermarkets, with a year on year increase of 8.8 per cent and, according to one estimate, shoppers spent £219m on Christmas cakes and confectionery for the two weeks prior to December 26 2015.
In 2015-16 around 63 per cent of adults in England were classified as either obese or overweight and nearly 64,000 over 18s were admitted to hospital because of tooth decay. Last year, 40 per cent of people made a resolution to lose weight and 24 per cent said they wanted to eat more healthily.
Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, raised concerns earlier this year that excessive consumption of sugary treats in the workplace is contributing to tooth decay in adults.
He said: “The idea of a cake culture in workplaces really seemed to strike a chord when the faculty first raised it as an issue earlier this year. We all recognise it. Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays.
“While these sweet treats might be well meaning, they are also contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health.
We need a culture change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid caving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits.
“With this in mind, the faculty has developed simple tips for workers and employers to help them cut back on sugar in the workplace. Make combatting cake culture in your workplace one of your New Year’s resolutions for a healthier 2017.”
The Faculty of Dental Surgery’s five tops tips for cutting sugar consumption are:
1. Consider low sugar alternatives: Colleagues appreciate it when someone takes the time to buy treats for the team. But rather than always buying sugary goods like biscuits and sweets, consider substituting them for low sugar alternatives.
2. Reduce portion sizes: Think about reducing portion sizes – choose the small bag rather than the big one.
3. Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat: If someone does bring cake or sweets to the office, avoid snacking throughout the day and only consume sugary goods at lunchtime. Not only does this help reduce your overall sugar intake, it’s also much better for teeth.
4. Develop a sugar schedule to help limit your team’s sugar intake: There may be times when cake keeps appearing in the office, as birthdays or other events seem to be happening almost every day. One way to limit sugar consumption at such times 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.
5. Location, location, location – think carefully about where cake and sugar is positioned. Research suggests that people will eat more sweets if they are nearby and visible than if they are placed further away. Therefore, think about where sugary products are positioned in the office and put them out of eyesight.
Employers can also help their staff to make healthier choices by:
• Substituting sugary products available in meetings, like biscuits, for lower sugar alternatives, such as plain nuts and fruit.
• Reviewing the content of office vending machines and removing high sugar products.
• Ensuring that lower sugar options are always available in staff canteens and making sugary products less visible.
FDS also recommends that 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 saying that, if necessary, legislation should be introduced in future to address this.