Sugar tax could aid obesity fight: Health agency

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jamie Oliver gave evidence at an inquiry into childhood obesity this week
Jamie Oliver gave evidence at an inquiry into childhood obesity this week

Related tags: sugar tax, Nutrition

A sugar tax could cut sugary drink purchases and help fight obesity, according to Public Health England (PHE), amid controversy over the government shelving the health agency’s report into the issue.

PHE director of diet and obesity Dr Alison Tedstone suggested that a sugar tax would “nudge”​ consumers towards healthier options but said three other interventions were more important.

“We think that there could be bigger impacts from, for example, getting a handle on promotions and on the deep, consistent advertising our children are exposed to for unhealthy foods,” ​she told an inquiry on childhood obesity.   

‘Reducing sugar content’ 

“We also believe that there is great scope for reducing the sugar content of the food that we buy in our supermarkets and corner shops and that is served in cafes and restaurants.” 

View from celebrity chef

“We should also work out who is running the country. Is it the businesses who, in my opinion, are profiting from ill health in our children? Or is it us?"

  • Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and campaigner

Earlier this week celebrity chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver told the inquiry that a sugar tax would be “deeply symbolic”​ and recent discussions indicated that it has not been ruled out.  

“We should be big and bold,”​ said Oliver, who has levied a 10p sugar tax in his own restaurants

“We should also work out who is running the country. Is it the businesses who, in my opinion, are profiting from ill health in our children? Or is it us?"

But Food and Drink Federation boss Ian Wright said industry reformulation and marketing commitments had contributed to a consumer shift toward low and no sugar drinks.

‘Tackling obesity’

“We maintain the view, shared by government, that a comprehensive approach – including a partnership with industry and others – is the answer to tackling obesity, not new taxes,” ​he said.

Earlier this week Wright told the BBC’s Newsnight​ that sugary drinks should be drunk as a “treat”​ even if they contained more than daily recommended sugar intake.

“Two thirds of drinks drunk in this country contain low or no sugar. A vast majority of drinks are low or no sugar and consumer taste is moving in that direction,”​ Wright said. 

PHE’s response to sugar reduction

  • Sugar tax could cut sugary drink purchases
  • Control price promotions and advertising
  • Scope to reduce sugar content in food 

Related news

Show more

Related product

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars