FRC authors react to sugar tax announcement

FRC authors react to sugar tax announcement

Earlier today, in his presentation of the 2016 budget, Chancellor George Osborne revealed plans for a sugar tax on soft drinks, as a measure towards reducing childhood obesity. The new levy will be implemented in 2018, and its proceeds will go towards funding sports in schools. (Sources: BBC News, The Guardian, The Telegraph).

The possibility of a tax on sugar in the UK had generated intense debate in recent years. The Food Research Collaboration published a briefing paper on this topic in May 2015, followed by three other papers on sugar issues. Authors of the FRC publications reacted to today’s announcement with measured optimism.

Laura Cornelsen (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), co-author of the paper “Health-related taxes on food and beverages”:

“The tax on soft drinks announced by the Government today is good news for public health as it’s a bold step towards tackling obesity, particularly among children. The tax will reduce some of the consumption and raise revenue, but it also has a big value in its message to both producers and consumers – we need less added sugar in our soft drinks.

The proposed two-tier system will help soften the blow for the producers and will hopefully encourage reduction in added sugars in the soft drinks. Also, producers have plenty of time in the next two years to further reformulate the drinks to include less added sugar before the tax will take effect. It’s very encouraging to hear that the revenues from the tax will be directed to promote more sports in schools.

The tax is of course not a silver bullet and we can’t rely on it to solve the childhood obesity problem. Hopefully the Government will continue to work on a further range of measures in its Childhood Obesity Strategy.”

Kawther Hashem (Action on Sugar), co-author of the paper “Does sugar pass the environmental and social test?”:

“We are delighted to see in today’s budget announcement that the government will be introducing a new sugar levy on soft drinks which will be used to double the funding they dedicate to sport in every primary school.

However, for this to be effective, it’s imperative that the levy is at least 20% on all sugar-sweetened soft drinks and confectionary and escalate thereafter if companies do not comply to reformulation targets – and this must be implemented immediately.

The country is still eagerly awaiting for David Cameron to announce his long over due childhood obesity strategy and he now has a unique opportunity to produce a coherent, structured evidence-based plan based on our six key recommendations, which includes food and drink reformulation, to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.”

Ben Richardson (University of Warwick), author of the paper “Sugar Shift: Six Ideas for a Healthier and Fairer Food System”:

“The sugar tax should be welcomed. It will raise revenue for sporting activities in primary schools. It will also send a powerful message to the public that sugary drinks are dangerous in excess. But it should not be a distraction. Schools still face real-term budget cuts as do local authorities, the part of government responsible for public health in England. Many efforts to promote healthy eating and exercise that should get funded, still won’t.”

You can read a reaction from the Chair of FRC, Professor Tim Lang, on the City University London website. 

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