Public Health England has launched a new smartphone app to help raise awareness of the amount of sugar in food and drink, under a bid to reign in rising tides of obesity and diabetes in the country.

The Sugar Smart app allows consumers to scan barcodes on more than 75,000 products to reveal the amount of total sugar they contain, which is then displayed in both cubes and grams.

The move comes alongside a warning that children are consuming for too much sugar in their diet, with the average now three times the new maximum recommended amount, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Obesity already costs the NHS £5.1 billion per year and is projected to rise to £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year, while a fifth of four-to-five-year-olds and a third of 10-to-11-year-olds are now overweight or obese, highlighting the urgent need for action.

The app, says Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, should “help parents see exactly where the sugar in their children’s diet is coming from, so they can make informed choices about what to cut down on”.

Meanwhile, Diabetes UK has released figures showing that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has capped 4 million for the first time.

3.5m adults diagnosed with diabetes 

The figures, taken from GP patient data, show that there are now 4.05 million people with the condition in the country, which includes 3.5 million diagnosed adults - an increase of 119,965 compared to the previous year, and an increase of 65% over the past decade.

The charity is also warning that more than 24,000 people a year with diabetes die prematurely, largely because 40 percent aren’t getting the eight checks recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which are crucial to identifying potential problems that might lead to serious complications.

Also, diabetes education courses are not being commissioned for people in over a third of areas in England, while hospital care “is consistently poor and, in a significant minority of cases, is putting people’s lives at risk”, it said.

“With a record number of people living with diabetes, there is no time to waste in getting serious about providing better care and diabetes education. Until this happens, the rising number of people with diabetes will continue to be denied the best chance of living long and healthy lives and the NHS will continue to be crippled under avoidable but escalating costs of treating poorly managed diabetes,” said Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew.