I have argued against taxing added sugar in soft drinks, because I think it deflects attention from real solutions to obesity. Am I wrong ? The latest evidence backs me up.
A new global assessment has come this month from Geoff Parker, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Beverages Council. He reports that:
- The New Zealand Ministry of Health analysed 47 studies and “found the impact of such taxes on public health was weak.”
- In Mexico, “what actually happened according to tax receipts … was a very small decline … of less than 2 per cent in the first year, … a recovery in sales in year 2 … and growth in sales thereafter.”
- In Berkeley, California, calorie intake from beverages increased because of people switching to smoothies and juices.
- In Britain, there hasn’t been “any discernible impact on consumer behaviour.”
He concludes that “this intervention lacks evidence from anywhere in the world that such a tax has a measureable impact on obesity rates and analysis has shown it doesn’t improve diets either.”
Instead, there have been multiple adverse unintended consequences including job losses, budget shortfalls and cost pressure on lower income households.
He calls for greater collaboration between governments and industry, with an emphasis on reformulation and smaller pack sizes.
Then, of course, there is the rest of our diet…