UK to Introduce Sugar Tax

Last week we wrote a blog questioning what the government was doing about the obesity crisis in Britain after they delayed their obesity strategy again. So we were surprised as everyone else when George Osborne announced a sugar tax on soft drinks in his 2016 budget.

Why has the tax been introduced?

The sugar tax has been seen as a potential solution to the obesity and diabetes crisis in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described obesity as ‘one of the most serious public health challenges for the 21st century.

The latest figures for childhood obesity show that 19.1% of children in aged 10-11 were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight. Of children aged 4-5, 9.1% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds were overweight or obese.

The idea of a sugar tax is not a new one and has been some success in other countries, such as Mexico, which saw up to 12% reduction in soft drink purchases over two years,

How will the tax work?

The tax, which will be implemented in 2 years, will target high sugar drinks, which are particularly popular amongst children and teenagers. Small producers, fresh fruit juices and milk based drinks will be excluded.

There will be two bands of tax, the first for those drinks containing 5g per 100ml, the second for those drinks containing 8g per 100ml. This will work out at between 18p and 24p per litre. The drinks in the higher rate include Coca Cola, Lucozade, Irn Bru and Pepsi.

Why not other sugary products?

Sugary drinks have been targeted because of their popularity amongst children and teenagers. On average, teenagers get most of their sugar intake from soft drinks, while children get a third of their daily sugar intake.

While chocolate bars or sweets are seen as a treat, people tend not to think the same of fizzy juice, and often consume many in one day. Some brands contain enough sugar in one can to take people over their daily recommended intake in one go. Fizzy drinks also have absolutely no nutritional value.

Sugar Tax is not Enough

Health Rewards Ambassador Stephen Morrison believes extra measures need to be introduced to change the culture of sugar consumption, such as reducing portion sizes, more regulation of how high sugar goods are marketed (especially to children), and further controls over how high sugar foods are displayed in stores.



“As someone who has lost 12 stone and who is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador, I applaud Jamie’s efforts to highlight the sugar content in many soft drinks. A reduction in sugar consumption has shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels and fat in the liver

“However, my own experiences tell me that this will not be enough or as great an impact as expected. In my opinion price promotions are a bigger problem and the pressure groups seem to have successfully persuaded the Government from addressing food manufacturers and retailers 

…Am I the only person who buys family sized bags of sweets with the intention of making them last and then races to the bottom of the pack? We could, of course, show some self constraint, but many of us that are obese have a destructive relationship with food. Urging us to eat less does little to reduce our urges to eat more. Increasing a litre of Coke by 20 pence will not necessarily prevent people from still buying it.” 

“For me, cereal manufacturers are almost criminal in their pursuit of young consumers. The shapes, flavours and marketing of breakfast cereals entice children and too many parents associate a bowl of cereal as a greeeeeaaaat way to start the day, not knowing that often a third of the bowl is sugar.”

“In my local Tesco (naming and shaming, but not alone), the end of every aisle has high-sugar foods on promotion. These goods are heavily discounted to the extent that it is often not much more expensive to buy four of five bars than one. Again, we could criticise people and parents, but does that actually achieve anything? Instead, let’s encourage better promotion of healthier options and motivate and inspire people to make healthier purchases.”


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