Children eat the equivalent of 20 chocolate chip cookies’ worth of sugar every day. PICTURE: Supplied

Children eat the equivalent of 20 chocolate chip cookies’ worth of sugar every day.

Experts say the vast majority of the sugar is hidden in common foods such as cereals and soft drinks, making it hard for parents to control what youngsters consume.

The Public Health England data shows the average 11- to 18 year old eats 73.2g of sugar a day – roughly 18 teaspoons. The figure is more than double the 30g a day recommended by the NHS. The food industry is now being urged to take urgent action to help reduce sugar in products.

Dr Modi Mwatsama of The Obesity Health Alliance, which analysed the figures, said: ‘Most parents would never hand over 20 chocolate biscuits a day to their children, but with so much hidden sugar in our food and drink it can often be hard to know just how much children are consuming. By reducing the amount of sugar found in everyday products, industry could help make a real difference in improving the health of our children. Industry has been successful in the past around reducing salt – let’s see the same with sugar.’

The Government has called on companies to cut sugar in products such as breakfast cereals, cakes and yoghurts by 20 per cent by 2020. But the program has been fiercely criticized because it is merely a voluntary scheme, and contains no measures to force companies to act.

Professor Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, called the findings ‘shocking’, adding: ‘This vast amount of sugar consumption is storing up so much trouble for generations to come.’

Dr Alison Tedstone, of Public Health England, said: ‘Some big industry players have taken positive early steps, but it’s the big coffee shops, pubs and restaurants we need to do the same.’

© Daily Mail