NHS sugar tax not ‘justified’: BSDA boss

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The NHS's planned sugar tax for its hospitals could not be justified, according to BSDA boss
The NHS's planned sugar tax for its hospitals could not be justified, according to BSDA boss

Related tags Soft drinks Sucrose Nutrition

National Health Service (NHS) plans to introduce a sugar soft drinks ban or tax in its hospitals could not be “justified”, according to British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) boss.

The NHS has asked staff and the public whether or not to impose a tax or ban on sugary drinks sold in its hospitals.

Such a ban or tax would include any and all drinks with added sugar, such as fruit juices, sweetened milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees.

BSDA director general Gavin Partington said: “It’s hard to see how a ban on soft drinks can be justified given that the sector has led the way in reducing consumers’ sugar intake – down by over 17% since 2012.

“Given that the government is looking to introduce a soft drinks tax in 2018, it seems slightly odd that another public body wishes to duplicate this process.”

Raise £20M–£40M

The NHS expected that a 20% tax on sugary drinks sold at its premises could raise £20M–£40M, with the proceeds put back into patient charities and health and wellbeing programmes to keep its workers fit.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the increased risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes and child dental decay meant it was time for the organisation to “practice what we preach”.

“By ploughing the proceeds of any vendor fees back into staff health and patient charities, these proposals are a genuine win-win opportunity to both improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS,” ​said Stevens.

A two-month trial of the ban at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool and found it did not lead to a drop in drinks sales.

National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry called the proposed tax a brilliant move, since the NHS knew “full well the ravages caused by sugary drinks on a patient's health”.

‘Happy with healthier alternatives’

“The trials have shown that visitors and staff alike are happy with the healthier alternatives,” ​added Fry.

“If no fizzy drinks are on offer it will also undoubtedly lessen the havoc wrought by them on children​s teeth – a bonus frequently forgotten in the sugar debate.”

The NHS announced plans to introduce a sugar tax on food and drink back in January this year, but the proposal was panned by the food and drink industry.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said earlier this year the move was more about making money than a desire to change eating behaviours.

“Public Health England acknowledges there is a lack of evidence about the long­-term effectiveness of additional taxes on food and drink,”​ Wright said.

“We can only assume, therefore, that​ [January’s] announcement is driven more by the need to raise money than by any wish to change behaviours.” 

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