‘Obesity time bomb’: FSS proposes sugar tax

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food Standards Scotland has warned of an obesity “time bomb”
Food Standards Scotland has warned of an obesity “time bomb”

Related tags: Nutrition

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has proposed a sugar tax, tougher reformulation targets and regulation of promotions in order to defuse an obesity “time bomb”.

Scotland’s public sector food body said food and drink manufacturers and retailers should be given a grace period of a year to come up with an alternative to a sugar tax. 

FSS chairman Ross Finnie said it was vital that the food industry played its part in coming up with ways to reduce sugar consumption and improve the nation’s diet. 

“But there should be no doubt that we are committed to improving dietary outcomes in Scotland, so if industry proposals fall short, we believe we should actively pursue other avenues, including taxation,” ​he said. 

Reweight promotion of foods​ 

Finnie said the FSS board agreed that the food and drink industry should also find ways to reweight food promotions in favour of healthier options. 

“There can be few in any doubt now as to the gravity of the health time bomb related to poor diet and obesity facing our nation,” ​Finnie said. 

“The board’s view is that a raft of alternative, more radical measures and interventions must be considered and introduced if we are to have the impact that is needed.”  

Its recommendations, which will be put to Scottish government ministers, include a sugar tax, reformulation targets, portion size reduction and regulation around food and drink promotions.  

Tax on unhealthy foods ​ 

Research, commissioned by the FSS, showed that 54% of Scottish adults were happy with the idea of a tax on unhealthy foods to offset the price of healthy foods. 

The same number said a tax on unhealthy foods would encourage them to buy and eat less, the FSS said.  

Scotland has missed its dietary goals for the past 15 years and a FSS report found that the nation must change its “deep-rooted”​ poor diet​. 

Response from the Scottish Food and Drink Federation

“We all know that obesity is a challenge for this nation, and the food and drink industry wants to play its part in the solution. 

“The best and most effective way to do this is in partnership, working with industry to reduce portion sizes, to reformulate products and to educate consumers about the food they are eating. 

“Our industry has a strong record of doing just this on salt, on waste and on portion size. 

“Punishing and legislating against an industry that employs 34,000 people in Scotland – 19% of all our manufacturing jobs – would be a retrograde step, in particular when there is no evidence of the long-term effectiveness of additional taxes on single nutrients, foods or drinks. 

“Instead, Food Standards Scotland and the Scottish government should work with industry in partnership to make a real and effective difference for Scotland’s people.” 

  • David Thomson, ceo, Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF)

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