Call for a tax on unsustainable food: Food Ethics Council

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Tax unsustainable foods, recommended Crossley, the new executive director of the Food Ethics Council
Tax unsustainable foods, recommended Crossley, the new executive director of the Food Ethics Council
Taxes should be levied on “unsustainable foods” as well as those that are deemed to be unhealthy, claims the new executive director of the Food Ethics Council.

Dan Crossley who joined the charity, which campaigns for a fairer and greener global food system in January, said taxation was far from ideal, but it was better than doing nothing. In February Crossley was a signatory to Sustain's campaign for a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.

He told our sister publication Food Manufacture​ that the voluntary Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) between government and industry wasn’t going far enough or fast enough.

Positive results

“Voluntary arrangements like the PHRD can have positive results and some of the early signs are that progress has been made. However, is the rate of change fast enough? I would say no. We need to move things along a lot faster than we are at the moment,”​ he said.

“Secondly, when you see the list of organisations that are involved, it is easy to think that it is all of the food industry, but there are lots of businesses within the food industry that are not involved. It is misleading to think that things such the PHRD are all-inclusive arrangements.”

Crossley said he backed food and farming alliance Sustain’s recent calls for a fizzy drinks tax because the money raised would be ring-fenced and spent on improving children’s health such as providing more nutritious school meals.

‘Massive, growing issue’

“In a sense, it would be better if we didn’t have to resort to measures like that, but it gets to the stage where childhood obesity is a massive, growing issue and we need to be a lot firmer in the measures we are taking instead of just relying on food businesses to do the right thing. Some of them are doing that, but not quickly enough,”​ said Crossley.

He also favoured taxing “less sustainable”​ products, alongside those that were less healthy. “The sugar tax is aimed at tackling health and obesity issues but we think there needs to be action on less sustainable products too.

“At the minute we are already paying for this albeit through the back door, for things like the environmental clean-up of our rivers, for example.

“We need to recognise that we need to pay a fair price for our food. In the past we have had free or almost free labour, free water and free other inputs into food. We are now moving to a situation where a lot of these inputs are based on finite resources, which are only heading in one direction, so we need to appreciate that and prepare for that.”

Don't miss Food Manufacture’s Big Interview​ with Crossley.

Related topics: Regulation, Beverages

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