Lobbying, and counter-lobbying – it’s really hotting up in advance of the much anticipated publication of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy. With major food firms, the NHS and the World Health Organisation all having their say on the potential benefits or otherwise of a sugar tax.
With a third of primary school leavers now reported as being obese and sugar commonly regarded as the major villain, there is a consensus that something needs to be done.
Restaurants’ sugary drinks levy
Public Health England recommended a tax on sugary drinks, not before Jamie Oliver partnered with Sustain to impose a levy on drinks in his restaurants, swiftly joined by among others, SRA Members, Leon and Tortilla.
The Prime Minister, initially not convinced, appears to be swaying towards the merits of such a tax and his political ally Boris Johnson’s recently introduced a levy in Greater London Authority catering facilities.
Now the NHS has announced it will impose its own sugar tax in hospitals and health centres in England – a 20 per cent tax on all sugary drinks and foods in NHS cafes to be introduced by 2020.
And if the Prime Minister and his advisers still weren’t persuaded, then the World Health Organisation produced its own report – Ending Childhood Obesity – stating that there was strong evidence that a tax could work – in conjunction with a range of other complementary measures.
Food and drink firm strike first
But food and drinks giants like Coca Cola and Kellogg’s still have some fizz in them and this week pre-empted any regulations by announcing that they will be cutting the sugar and calorie content of a number of their products including drinks, ice creams and cereals.
They claim that their unprecedented measures, which also include scrapping adverts near school will see British sugar consumption reduced by 20%.
We believe that, amongst a range of measures, a tax is an important way of both highlighting the issue and reducing the amount of sugar in people’s diets. While sugary drinks are a serious culprit, it would however, be a mistake to overlook the rest of the potential offenders on the menu.
Watch this space for further updates on this sticky debate.