Sugar Tax

Sugar tax report slammed as health lobby ‘PR stunt’

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has led calls for a sugar tax
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has led calls for a sugar tax

Related tags: Nutrition, Sugar

A sugar tax and childhood obesity report by Members of Parliament (MPs) has been slammed by the industry as a public relations (PR) stunt for the health lobby.     

The Commons health committee’s report published today (November 30) called for a 20% tax on sugary drinks, labels showing sugar content in teaspoons and tough controls on price promotions and advertising.

Food and drink industry representatives have hit back at the Childhood obesity—brave and bold action ​report, arguing that the MPs demonstrated a “worrying lack of understanding”.

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington criticised the basis of the report, which came out of the health committee’s inquiry held last month.

‘PR campaign by health lobby’

“This was not an inquiry in the conventional meaning of the word. It was part of the PR campaign by the health lobby to persuade ministers to introduce a tax on soft drinks,”​ he said.

“By its own admission the health select committee is merely proposing this tax because it’s easy to do yet there is no evidence worldwide that such a tax has an effect on obesity.”  

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright argued that MPs came into the inquiry with a clear agenda and only heard evidence that supported their preconceptions.

“The committee has swallowed whole the agenda of the pressure group Action on Sugar,” ​he said. “Their report also simply endorses and reproduces at great length the recommendations already made by Public Health England ​[PHE].”

Wright said labelling showing sugar content in teaspoons would be illegal and a sugar tax would penalise consumers who already pay VAT.  

‘Worrying lack of understanding’

“The fact that the report calls on manufacturers voluntarily to label ‘added sugars’ in products, in the form of a teaspoon graphic, when to do so would be illegal, is characteristic of a worrying lack of understanding,” ​he said.  

“As a result of the arbitrary new tax recommended by the committee ​ which, if introduced, would inevitably be increased year-on-year and extended to other foods ​ would leave consumers paying significantly more, every week, for the products they love.”​ 

The report described the sugar tax as an essential part of measures needed to tackle childhood obesity and called for “bold and urgent”​ action in a government strategy to be unveiled next year.

“The scale and consequences of childhood obesity demand bold and urgent action from government,” ​it said. “We believe that if the government fails to act, the problem will become far worse.”

Health committee chairman Dr Sarah Wollaston has defended the recommendation for a tax on sugary drinks on her blog. 

‘Harm caused by these products’

“We do not believe that this is an attack on low-income families as industry lobbyists will no doubt claim, but rather an essential part of trying to reverse the harm caused by these products,”​ she said. 

“That harm is not confined to obesity; we know for example that dental decay is the commonest reason for hospital admission in children between the ages of five and nine.”

Action on Sugar (AoS) nutritionist Jennifer Rosborough told FoodManufacture.co.uk:“The publication of today’s independent report by the Health Select Committee into childhood obesity was not directly influenced by our campaigning as suggested by the predictable comments made by both Gavin Partington and Ian Wright.

​What is interesting is that the HSC ​[Health Select Committee] is in alignment with our ‘Cameron’s Obesity Plan’ launched today which includes a proposed 20% duty on all sugar sweetened soft drinks and confectionery – a tax that has already been successfully introduced in Mexico and, as a result, reduced consumption by 12%.

“This is by no means a PR stunt but an urgent call to action to the government to prevent the UK’s obesity and type 2 diabetes crisis from spiralling out of control. We must now all work together to pressure the government into taking ‘bold and urgent action’.”

Meanwhile, read why two-thirds of British adults would say no thanks to a sugar tax,​ while the AoS has set out a six-point plan​ to tackle obesity.

Nine recommendations from report

  • Strong controls on price promotions
  • Tougher controls on marketing and advertising
  • Centrally-led reformulation programme
  • Tax on sugary soft drinks
  • Sugar content in teaspoons on labels
  • Improved education and information about diet
  • Universal school food standards
  • Greater powers for local authorities to tackle obesity
  • Further research and early intervention to help families 

Related news

Show more

2 comments

My figure

Posted by LessOfASubo!,

"Health lobby"! Damn those people who are campaigning for health!

Report abuse

My Eye

Posted by Subopottsboyle,

Sugar tax my eye. It's like the packaging waste tax scheme. A scheme to raise money where the vast portion of it will go to anything but health and obesity.

Then what about a fat tax on burgers. As we all know, they are made of meat from animals fed on growth promoting hormones and packed with preservatives so they don't go off or decay as they should. Combine this with a lack of exercise what do we get? Super sized fatties and I don't mean to point the finger at anyone one or insult them but it is a fact.

Then there's the question: Where is parental control in the care of the health and welfare of children.

So tax isn't the solution is it

Report abuse

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars

PRODUCTS & SERVICES