A report controversially blocked by the Government calls for a ‘sugar tax’ – but also demands other crackdowns to curb the nation’s addiction.
After protests from MPs, the Public Health England (PHE) study was finally released, three months after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered it be kept under wraps.
As expected, it warns the nation is ‘eating too much sugar’, fuelling tooth decay among children and an obesity crisis costing the NHS £5.1bn a year.
And it urges the Government to introduce a tax of between 10% and 20% on sugary foods and drinks, as demanded by the British Dental Association (BDA) and other campaigners.
PHE warned that average sugar intake is 12-15% of people’s energy intake, far more than the 5% recommended by Government advisers.
And it concluded: ‘Research studies and impact data from countries that have already taken action suggest that price increases, such as by taxation, can influence purchasing of sugar-sweetened drinks and other high-sugar products.’
A 10% tax in Mexico resulted led to a 6% reduction in sales of sugary drinks and a similar policy in England would cut consumption ‘at least in the short term’, the report said.
However, a sugar tax is just one of eight key recommendations, the others being:
- Cutting the number of promotions in shops, cafes and takeaways – by balancing those discounts with offers of low-sugar snacks
- Less advertising of high sugar foods and drinks – with controls covering all media, including digital platforms events sponsorship
- Accredited training in healthy food choices – led by local authorities, of people working in catering, fitness and leisure sectors
- Clearer definition of high-sugar foods – the current model using nutrients should be made easier for shoppers and eaters
- Less high-sugar foods available in the public sector – in national and local government buildings, including leisure centres and hospitals
- Reduced levels of sugar in food and drink – plus smaller portion sizes
- A refreshed national campaign encouraging people to eat healthier – building on projects such as ‘eatwell’ and ‘five a day’.
This week, Downing Street confirmed that David Cameron would not introduce any sort of sugar tax – and that he did not even read the PHE report before dismissing the idea.
Rejecting the campaign spearheaded by TV chef Jamie Oliver, a No 10 spokesman said: ‘The prime minister’s view remains that he doesn’t see a need for a tax on sugar.’
The report, called Sugar Reduction: the Evidence for Action, comes ahead of a Government strategy to combat childhood obesity, now expected in the New Year.