It was disappointing that the BDA had jumped on a “politically motivated campaign” to establish a tax on sugary food and drink, Partington told FoodManufacture.co.uk in a biting response to the policy.
The policy, ‘Interventions which reduce the consumption of energy from sugary drinks in children’, was launched earlier this month.
In it, the BDA claimed the nation’s children were consuming too much sugar and said it supported a tax on sugary drinks as part of measures to reduce obesity and improve children’s diets.
A better diet
The policy also advocated schemes to reduce the frequency and amount of sugary drinks consumed by children and called for better education in schools to help children have a balanced diet.
However, Partington refuted a tax on sugary food and drink would help combat issues with the nation’s diet and health.
“Both Belgium and Denmark abandoned plans for a tax in 2013 and evidence from France shows that, while sales of soft drinks initially fell after a tax was introduced in 2012, they have increased since,” he said.
The industry had also been taking clear and concerted action over several years to boost the number of low and no calorie drinks available to consumers, Partington added.
“Since 2012, the leading soft drinks companies have increased their advertising spend on low and no calorie drinks by almost 70% and sales of these products have already increased by 5%,” he said.
The BDA said it:
- Supports and advocates a range of public policies to reduce the frequency of consumption of sugary drinks and the amount of drinks by children and adolescents;
- Supports the principle of a tax on sugary drinks as part of a range of measures that will be essential to reduce obesity and improve diet;
- Recommends school-based education programmes as an example of interventions which may offer health professionals the best opportunities for cutting sugary drink consumption cost effectively and sustainably in children and adolescents
‘Too many calories’
“While soft drinks contribute just 3% of calories to the average UK diet, we do recognise that some people are consuming too many calories overall.
“So it’s important that teenagers and parents appreciate the wider choice of drinks containing low and no calories,” Partington said.
Last week, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham revealed Labour’s plans to limit fat, sugar and salt levels in the food marketed to children if the party won the next general election on May 7.
It was unclear at what levels fat, sugar and salt would be set or whether there would be a 9pm watershed for advertising such foods on TV.
But, Barbara Gallani, Food and Drink Federation director of regulation, science and health, urged the government to be cautious when setting new fat, sugar and salt levels.
Setting unrealistic targets could spoil the quality of some food and drink, she said.
“The risks of introducing any unworkable limits which could jeopardise the quality of some of the UK’s world-renowned foods without delivering a consumer benefit must be acknowledged,” she added.