UK soft drinks tax comment
A UK tax on added sugar soft drinks was announced by the British Chancellor yesterday. The measure contained many surprises.
• Although its target is current obesity, it won’t come into effect until April 2018.
• It’s not part of a long awaited childhood obesity strategy, because the Government postponed this just three weeks ago.
• The Chancellor went into much disputed medical territory in arguing: “We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease.”
• It’s calculated to raise £520 million in its first year, without the Government stating the actual amount.
• My biggest surprise was that this revenue calculation was partly based on figures from Zenith International, my own business.
• The BBC has estimated rates of 18 pence per litre for drinks up to 5 grams of total sugar per 100ml and 24 pence per litre for drinks up to 8 grams of total sugar per 100ml.
• That could double some supermarket own label cola prices.
• Yet so many other sugary products are excluded.
The Food and Drink Federation described the announcement as political theatre. And so it seems.
• I very much doubt it will raise £520 million.
• I do think it will lead to widespread reformulation of some drinks, as has already happened for many products, especially for children in school.
• Even though the funds raised will reportedly be used for improving sports facilities in schools, I also doubt the tax will make a material contribution to reducing obesity.
• Really reducing obesity requires a far broader programme that also involves parents and health professionals, information and training, portion and serving moderation as well as activity and exercise.
• My great worry is that the semblance of action will distract attention from developing a proper plan.
• Obesity does need tackling. With all round action.