From Friday, drinks manufacturers in the UK will have to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks they sell, following the implementation of the ground-breaking sugar tax in the country. While ministers and campaigners say the tax is already driving positive results, with many manufacturers cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks ahead of the change, others say it’s still too early to tell. Indeed, while Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have cut the sugar content of their drinks, Coca-Cola hasn’t. The UK joins a small handful of countries, including France, Mexico and Norway, which have introduced similar taxes in an attempt to reduce sugar consumption. Manufacturers will need to pay the levy – equivalent to 24p per litre - on any of their drinks that contain more than 8g per 100ml. It is not yet known whether the costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of price increases. Drinks containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml will be subject to a lower rate of tax of 18p per litre. Pure fruit juices that do not contain any added sugar will be exempt, as are drinks with high milk content (due to the beneficial calcium they contain). The new tax is expected to raise around £240 million a year, which will be invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs.
We recently reported that childhood obesity rates are 10 times higher today than they were in 1975. This worrying trend is only set to continue unless more is done to tackle obesity in children. So-called “sugar taxes” on soft drinks in various countries around the world and France’s decision to ban unlimited fizzy drinks in restaurants, fast food-chains, schools and holiday camps, are definitely steps in the right direction. Now, hospitals in England have laid out plans to ban the sale of any sweets or chocolate that contain more than 250 calories. Going forward, super-sized chocolate bars will become a thing of the past in hospital vending machines and canteens. In addition, pre-packed sandwiches with more than 450 calories and/or 5g of saturated fat per 100g will also be banned. Hospitals will be given a cash boost to help them facilitate the changes. The decision to ban fattening and sugary food products in hospitals is actually win-win for the National Health Service (NHS). These foods are major contributors to obesity and many other conditions/diseases, such as preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer – all of which put enormous strain on the health service. Public Health England says hospitals have an "important role" in tackling obesity and not just dealing with the consequences.
A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that the global body has added its support to countries that place a "sugar tax" on soft drinks. It's the first time the WHO has thrown its support behind taxation. Previously, it had stopped short, simply advising a lower sugar intake. Several countries, including Mexico and Hungary, already tax added sugar products, and South Africa is introducing a sugar tax next year - the only country in Africa to do so. The WHO said that incidences of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay can be lowered if people lower their consumption of "free sugars". Free sugars are all the different types of sugar people eat, except for the ones found naturally in milk and fruit. Dr Francesco Branca, nutrition director for the WHO, said that people should keep their sugar intake below 10% of their total calorie intake, and below 5% if possible. "Nutritionally, people don't need any sugar in their diet," he said. The WHO report found that raising prices by 20% or more leads to lower consumption and "improved nutrition". It also noted that government subsidies for fruit and vegetables, which inevitably lead to lower prices, can have a positive impact on the amount people consume.