Recent press has been focusing on the prospect of the Government putting a tax on fizzy and soft drinks. As always in the field of nutrition this is a topic which will provoke controversy!
The recent press interest is in response to a number of campaigns working to help reduce obesity in the UK, as well as a response to a number of studies linking soft drink intake with unhealthy lifestyles, overweight and obesity and even diabetes.
A recent report was published by the AoMRC (The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges), the body representing the medical profession including surgeons, GPs and paediatricians. This report – entitled “Measuring Up” – included the following recommendations:
- A ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9 p.m.
- Further taxes on sugary drinks – to increase prices by at least 20%
- A reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres
- A £100m budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery
- No junk food or vending machines in hospitals, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools
- Food labels to include calorie information for children
For more information see the full report on the AoMRC website: http://www.aomrc.org.uk
So what do you think?
We “asked the audience” on our Facebook page what they thought of the recommendations from the AoMRC and the idea of a “soft drink tax”. Here are some of the responses:
Heather Dunford – Design Assistant
“I agree. Sometimes making unhealthy options harder for people is the only way to change people’s habits. I just wonder if the target audience for this proposal will view it as a way to make more money from them rather than with their health in mind. This is always the difficulty when you hear the word ‘tax’. People easily adopt a ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ attitude in these situations as a way of avoiding the facts. Education from Registered Nutritionists like you has to be the most effective way of changing people’s views on food and therefore hopefully their bad eating habits.”
Cherly Ryder – Founder of “Dribble Delights”
“I would very much welcome a tax like that…Unfortunately I see too many primary school kids drinking it! As a parent you just want the best start in life for your kids and I wish the norm was water! It is in schools, which is great, but we’re sending mixed messages to young people. It’s no longer enough to simply offer a piece of fruit in a meal deal, it needs to looked upon as a whole package of food, drink, and snacks.”
Soraya Janmohamed – OptiBac Probiotics
“People need to be more aware of the dangers of sugar, and if we need tax to make this happen, then so be it. We’re always trying to cut down on/heavily reduce sugar intake.”
Kristina Helbig – From Germany
“I never drink soft drinks and the tax sounds good to start with, but then on the other side I don’t think it is fair towards people who like to have a can of coke as a treat from time to time. Also will the tax really stop people from buying these drinks or will people just start to save on other foods like fruit and veg to afford these things? I think the problem is much deeper and won’t be solved simply with that. The Government needs to go deeper and get the food companies involved in regulating how much sugar can go into foods, as well as regulating the availability of food in the supermarkets. The amount and they type of food available in the UK is just insane!”
Also have a look at the opposing opinions in this video. It’s a really interesting contrast.
So what do we think?
Well here at SR Nutrition we certainly agree with the recommendations made by the AoMRC. We cannot hide from the fact that, ultimately, what we eat and drink is a decision made by each individual. However we truly believe that society NEEDS to help make eating healthily “the norm” and the easiest option for everyone.
Currently unhealthy eating is actually the easiest option, with the wide array of “junk foods” and fizzy drinks available 24 hours a day. A fizzy drink tax (as well as all other suggestions made by the AoMRC) is not an ultimate solution, but certainly could go some way to improving the eating behaviour of the UK public.
Public health laws have been saving lives and improving health for years, as is pointed out in the above video. For example, seatbelts, smoking bans and speed-limits have been introduced to force the public to make the right decisions. This may be seen as “nanny-state” intervention, but having all of the above in place has made an impact by saving lives.
Additionally the statistics on obesity have been well known for a long time and are not drastically changing, no matter how much we try to “nudge” people in the right direction (the way the Government previously wanted to tackle the Obesity Crisis). As always, education is of extreme importance but I also think that a large percentage of the population know the basic healthy eating messages – eat less, exercise more – but that doesn’t mean they are doing it. Why not? Possibly because it is too easy to stay as we are and perhaps a “fat tax” will change that. Perhaps not…but I think we need to try.
For now we will leave you with comments from our hero, Marion Nestle to add to our thoughts above:
“By now, health officials are well aware that asking individuals to take responsibility for making their own healthy food choices hasn’t got a prayer of success in the face of a marketing environment that encourages people to eat everywhere, all day long, in very large portions and at relatively low cost.
This is the default food environment, where it’s useless to tell people they need to eat less and expect them to do it. They can’t. Instead, it makes sense to try to change the food environment to make healthy choices the easy choices.
Healthy by design?
Suppose, for example, that all kids’ meals at fast-food restaurants were healthy by design and automatically provided milk or water.
You could still order a soda for your kid, but you would have to ask for it – and pay extra. If you are like most people, you won’t bother. That’s why the default matters”.
See more from Marion Nestle here.