Sugar tax unlikely after Brexit: pressure group

By James Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The Sugar Levy less likely following the EU referendum, according to pressure group
The Sugar Levy less likely following the EU referendum, according to pressure group

Related tags: Nutrition

The UK sugar levy – due to be introduced in April 2018 – has little chance of implementation after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, according to an obesity pressure group.

The comment came after the “long delayed” ​Childhood Obesity Strategy (COS) was leaked to The Times​.

The report was slammed for being “pathetic”​ by pressure group Action on Sugar (AoS), last week (July 15).

It also called for new Prime Minister Theresa May to rapidly revise “what should have been one of the UK’s most important public health programmes”.

AoS criticised the report’s suggestion of a voluntary system for manufacturers to reformulate the amount of sugar in their products by 20%.

There was no mention of the reformulation of sugar in soft drinks which were “the main source of sugar in adolescents and children”, ​said AoS.

‘Eroded by the food industry’

It called for a regulated system to reduce sugar in products by 50%.

That level of reduction had “been shown internationally for salt reduction to be far more effective in reducing salt than voluntary systems which tend to be eroded by the food industry.

“[We] estimate that the plan in its current form will only reduce calorie intake by around 10–20Kcal/person/day as a maximum and this is nowhere near enough to have any real effect on preventing obesity.”

The group also slammed what it claimed was a lack of detail on the advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

It was a “pathetic response given the billions of pounds the food industry spends on advertising to young children of unhealthy products”, ​it claimed.

Chairman of AoS and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, University of London Graham MacGregor said: “After the farce of the Responsibility Deal where Andrew Lansley made the food industry responsible for policing themselves, it is sad to see that this is just another imitation of the same Responsibility Deal take two.

‘This will bankrupt the NHS’

“It is an insulting response to the UK crisis in obesity type 2 diabetes ​– both in children and adults. This will bankrupt the NHS unless something radical is done.”

AoS called into question the proposed plans for food manufacturers to police themselves over reformulation last month.

It also claimed lobbying from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the British Soft Drinks Association had delayed the government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy.

The FDF denied AoS claims it had lobbied to delay the UK Childhood Obesity Strategy.

FDF director general Ian Wright said: “The food and drink industry has been working in partnership with government for several years to ensure we play our part in tackling obesity.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Any suggestion that we are diminishing the ambition or the measures we take to reduce child obesity are quite wrong. There isn’t yet a final version of the obesity strategy.

“The new prime minister and the Cabinet will be working over coming days and weeks to establish their priorities and how we deliver on these commitments.”

Childhood Obesity Strategy – at a glance

  • 20% reduction of sugar in food by 2020
  • Ban on junk food at shop checkouts has been dropped
  • No ban for advertisements for unhealthy food before 9pm

Source: The Times

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