A sugar tax is not on the cards, says German coalition

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Although the SPD has spoken out in favour of sugar taxes in the past, it says a change in food taxation is not part of the coalition proposal.
Although the SPD has spoken out in favour of sugar taxes in the past, it says a change in food taxation is not part of the coalition proposal.

Related tags Nutrition

The German confectionery industry has slammed plans for a 19% tax proposal on sugar aimed at reducing obesity - but the social democrat party denies that such a 'sin tax' is on the cards.

In an official statement, the Federal Association of the German Confectionery Industry (BDSI) said it is clearly opposed to a supposed proposal from the German social democrat party (SPD) and Christian democrat coalition which would see a 19% tax levied on sweets and sugary foods, currently set at 7%. 

But SPD spokesperson Elvira Drobinski-Weiß said that such a sin tax was not part of the coalition's proposal on healthy eating, put to the German parliament in January this year. 

"There are several nutrient profiling models (WHO, UK for example) which, in my opinion, might be helpful. However, no concrete plans by the SPD faction or the coalition for this exist at the moment and a change in tax for certain food groups is not part of the proposal on improving healthy diets that will be voted on later this year." 

Drobinski-Weiß told FoodNavigator that she had previously spoken out in favour of food taxation to fight the obesity crisis which may have prompted the BDSI's backlash. 

Twisting the screw

In a statement in German published on the BDSI website last week, chairman Stephan Niessner said: "An increase in food prices by adding taxes would particularly hit socially vulnerable families.

“Nor would anyone become slimmer or healthier by twisting the taxation screw. Many factors are involved in the development of obesity – science has proved this. Consumed in moderation every food has its place in a balanced diet.”

He also claimed to have the backing of German minister for food and agriculture, Christian Schmidt, who had previously rejected plans for 'punitive taxes' as ineffective.

Inspired by UK

The healthy eating proposal - put forward by the coalition made up of the SPD and Christian democrat parties - called for mandatory guidelines for school meals and a ban on advertising unhealthy foods in kindergartens and primary schools.

It also called for a national strategy to reduce salt, sugar, fats and trans-fats in prepared foods, taking inspiration from British and Danish efforts in publicly-monitored industry reformulation.

Drobinski-Weiß told FoodNavigator : “We see a responsibility with the food industry to help consumers eat healthier and make better choices.

“We also see what impressive results have been achieved by the UK Consensus Action on Salt & Health or by the Danish government’s actions on reducing trans-fat consumption. That’s why we want to start a process with the food industry on how to bring salt, sugar and (trans-)fat content down.​“

The UK’s salt reduction programme has been instrumental in gradually reducing salt in food by 20-40% since its inception in 2005. It has achieved this without harming industry sales and without the public noticing a difference in taste. But the British government recently came under fire​ for derailing the programme and causing thousands of preventable deaths.

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