UK city calls for sugar tax to tackle ‘devastating’ addiction

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

UK city calls for sugar tax to tackle ‘devastating’ addiction

Related tags: sugar tax, Nutrition

UK city Brighton is urging food businesses to levy a 10p voluntary sugar tax on sugary drinks in a bid to address “the devastating harm caused by sugar addiction”.

The money raised will go to the Children’s Health Fund, set up by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Sustain, which will support schemes aimed at improving children’s health and food education, and reducing child obesity.

The council says that in 2012 and 2013 in Brighton and Hove, over 300 children were admitted to hospital for teeth extraction and treating diet related diseases costs the NHS in Brighton and Hove £80 million year.

Jamie Oliver said he hoped the move would inspire other councils around the UK to follow Brighton and Hove’s lead.

Malcolm Clark of the Children's Health Fund welcomed the move."[However], we should not forget the crucial role the central government needs to play in setting tougher rules on marketing of less healthy food and drink, and in pushing retailers and manufacturers to make the necessary changes to their products and promotions." 

Brighton’s Sugar Smart City initiative is also tackling unhealthy food choices in vending machines in health trusts and schools, as well as confectionery and sugary drinks sold in schools. Local cafes and restaurants  are encouraged to develop their own sugar reducing initiatives, such as offering smaller portion sizes of sugary foods and drinks and developing sugar-free children’s menus.

Brighton’s director of public health, Tom Scanlon, said: “Over the years sugar has been creeping into our diet, sometimes in ways we don’t even suspect. We are consuming more sugar than ever before and this is having extremely serious effects on levels of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

“The purpose of this Sugar Smart debate is to raise awareness and for us all to take a look at what we can do at homes, in schools and in restaurants, cafes and takeaways to address this.”

A petition against the voluntary tax on change.org has so far garnered only 24 signatures. The petition says: “The tax on sugar is both deeply patronising and an affront to the right to decide for ourselves what we and our children consume. These attacks on foodstuffs cause unnecessary worry and confusion about what we should and should not eat.”

But reactions on social media were more positive.

Jamie Oliver and Sustain had been campaigning for a nation-wide sugar tax and an online petition had attracted more than the 100,000 required signatures to spur a parliamentary debate on the issue. But the Department for Health said it was not considering a sugar tax as part of its obesity programme.

Last year the American city of Berkeley became the first US city to apply a soda tax of one cent per ounce on sugary drinks.

Industry trade group, the Food and Drink Federation, said that the focus on a sugar tax to fight obesity was misplaced. Ian Wright, director general, said: "We welcome efforts at national - and local - level to promote good health and good diets but we do not believe that to focus on a single nutrient, in the way that Brighton proposes, is the right way to tackle such a complex issue as obesity."

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1 comment

To blame sugar is misguided

Posted by Robert Lowndes,

Tom Scanlon should do his research which would show the sugar consumption per head in most developing countries has been on a steady decline for at least the last 50 years. Just ask those who know - the sugar industry. It is so easy to look for a scapegoat. Cheap food is certainly an issue but to single out sugar is ridiculous, defies the commonsense test and is doomed for failure!

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