Saturday, 23 April 2016

British Give Notice of a Sugar Tax

The British Government deserve credit for announcing in their most recent budget statement their intention to introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks in two years time. The reason for the notice period of two years is to give the soft drinks industry advance warning of their intentions so the can alter the sugar content of their soft drinks in order to incur the least tax, or avoid tax altogether.The British intend to scale the tax they intend to impose in a two-tier manner in order to reflect the extent of the added sugar in the drink. 

What the British intend to introduce is not a tax on the drinks being sold by a retailer to the public but a levy on the manufacturer of soft drinks in accordance with the following scale: 18 pence for every litre of soft drink containing 5-8 grams of added sugar per 100 millilitres of drink sold; and 24 pence for every litre of soft drink sold containing in excess of 8 grams of added sugar per 100 millilitres of soft drink . Naturally soft drinks manufacturers are not happy with this proposed levy and have publicly stated their dissatisfaction with the Conservative Government for stating their intention to introduce it.

The National Health Service, Public Health England, some doctors and TV chef, Jamie Olivier, have applauded the government for their bold move in stating their intention to introduce a tax on sugary drinks, as they have been bringing to the attention of politicians for years the detrimental effects of too much sugar in soft drinks on public health. Politicans close to the lobbyists for the soft drinks industry have either voiced their opinions against the move or have remained silent on the issue.
 The British aren't the first to move against excess sugar in soft drinks. Denmark, France, Norway and Mexico all have such a tax in one form or another. I highlighted the need for such a tax on this blog more than three years ago because of the health implications of added sugars, and it is now my prediction that most developed countries in the world will introduce one in the next five years. The British move to introduce such a tax could speed up others to introduce one as they are seen as leaders on health issues in certain countries in the world.

Whilst the British initiative only targets added sugars in soft drinks, which is a good place to start, a lot more needs to be done in respect of targeting added sugars in processed foods. Lots of food manufacturers have added sugars, quite unnecessarily, to their products for a variety  of reasons-the most obvious one being to sweeten their product and thereby create an addiction to it. I am sure food manufacturers selling into the UK market have taken note of the British move on drinks and are watching the situation very closely as they are likely to be the next ones to be hit by a tax on added sugars.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 in a report recommended that sugar intake per individual should be less than 10% of total energy intake.  It is very difficult in today's society for anybody to achieve the WHO objective because of the way food and soft drinks industries sell their products through retail outlets. Food labelling, in some instances, does not work because of hidden sugars, such as something listed in the ingredients list as "corn syrup" for example. It is therefore the responsibilities of governments worldwide to protect the public by using the tax system to steer the public away from products detrimental to health, in a similar manner to what they have done with tobacco products.