The announcement that the soft drink industry levy would be officially introduced in April next year was welcomed by pressure group Action on Sugar.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said the news relieved fears that the tax might be shelved until after the general election.
“We now have the guarantee that the levy will be in place before the next government is formed,” he said. “This coincides with news that Coca-Cola could face a £200M sugar tax from their Classic product alone if it doesn’t step up efforts to significantly reduce sugar content.
“This tax must act as a key deterrent to ensure all drink manufacturers reformulate with immediate effect.”
But both the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) maintained their long-standing opposition to the move, which was approved as part of a slimmed down budget announced this week.
BSDA director general Gavin Partington repeated claims that the tax would not reduce levels of obesity in the UK.
“We have always objected to the soft drinks tax on principle,” he said. “We support the need to address the public health challenge the country faces, but there is no evidence taxing a single product or ingredient has reduced levels of obesity anywhere in the world.
“Soft drinks companies have led the way on reformulation, smaller pack sizes and investment in promotion of low and no calorie products, which have all helped consumers reduce sugar intake from soft drinks, down nearly 18% since 2012.”
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) also said there was little evidence that suggested the soft drinks industry levy would help reduce the public’s calorie consumption.
“The FDF has consistently said that a soft drinks levy is not a proven tool for achieving sustained calorie reduction in the national diet,” said an FDF spokesman.
‘Scant evidence to support its introduction’
“Given the scant evidence to support its introduction combined with the period of huge uncertainty the country is currently experiencing, we would stress the importance of the actual impact of this fiscal measure being closely monitored and evaluated.”
The sugar levy announcement followed the National Health Service England’s (NHS) plans to cut sales of sugary drinks in its Hospitals last week.
Partington also commented on the NHS’s actions, asking them to promote sales of healthier options, but not to focus on soft drinks.
He added: “It’s worth remembering that while sugar intake from soft drinks has been falling, obesity levels have been increasing.”