Well it’s been a huge week for nutrition news this week.
The Government have announced that they are now going to be introducing a sugar tax (or sugar levy) on sugar sweetened beverages. The tax won’t be introduced for two years, until 2018, to give industry a chance to put this into practice (and hopefully make plans to reformulate?).
An email from the Government commented:
“The Chancellor said that soft drinks manufacturers will be taxed according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import. Drinks will fall into two bands: one for total sugar content above 5g per 100ml, and a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.”
Personally I feel like the Government have gone with the best and safest option they could in this ‘sugar tax’ situation. There was a lot of opposition to the idea of the tax being passed onto consumers, therefore, what the Government have actually done is:
- Passed the tax to the manufacturers which SHOULD encourage soft drink industries to reformulate to reduce their tax costs
- This means that the poorer communities won’t be unfairly targeted with this tax
- They have also charged a tax at two levels, meaning that drinks with really high levels of sugar will be taxed more
- Actually put some changes into action!!
However, as most comments from Registered Nutritionists and Dietitians (including myself: Huffington Post Sugar Tax) have pointed out, this change is NOT going to solve obesity and the Government and the media need to make this very, very clear. People who are opposed to this tax are also concerned that there isn’t enough research that this tax will work, or that it will ultimately drive consumers to choose healthier options.
I believe that this is another reason WHY the Government has put the emphasis on the manufacturers to make the changes. Taxing consumers may lead them to simply make another unhealthy choice, we just don’t know. However taxing industry directly, may encourage them to reformulate and reduce the amount of sugar that is found within their drinks…
However we still don’t know what and how manufacturers will actually deal with the tax. Will they simply pass it on to consumers by raising the price of their drinks? The jury is out on this. However, my thoughts question whether the food industry WILL act in this way, when this very open and much debated topic has been highlighted so publicly and already somewhat tarnished sugary drink manufacturers in a negative light?
As mentioned, I don’t think this is the solution to obesity, not in any way, but what I do think it is ACTION. And it’s action that we, working in public health, should be calling for if we want to help improve public health and make improvements to the foods we’re eating.
No action is not an option. But I do hold high hopes for more, much more, when the Childhood Obesity Report is unveiled later in the summer….