A Call for Taxes on Unhealthy Food high in Salt and Sugar

A Call for Taxes on Unhealthy Food high in Salt and Sugar

by Shruthi Venkatesh December 24 2018, 5:39 pm Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 6 secs

 “Junk food should be taxed”, says England's top doctor, calling on unhealthy food high in sugar and salt. Professor Dame Sally Davies said voluntary agreements with the food industry had failed to sufficiently reduce sugar and salt consumption and that tough action is now needed to save children from a lifetime of ill-health. Professor Dame Sally Davies said she is happy to be called Britain's ‘Chief Nanny’. In her annual report, she also urged the government to ban added sugar in jars of baby food.

The report details plans to create a healthier nation by 2040, with the focus on improving the environment we live in to make it easier for people to be healthier. “This means tackling the preventable causes of 50% of chronic diseases and 40% of cancers - namely, unhealthy diet, smoking, physical inactivity, drinking too much alcohol and air pollution”, she said.

(health fitness revolution)

“Those sectors that damage health must pay for their harm or subsidise healthier choices,” her report says. She hinted she would like to see a tax on chocolate and junk food, with the proceeds going to subsidise fruit and vegetables, which should be on offer in obvious places in shops.

She called for:

  • Taxes on fizzy drinks to be immediately extended to the likes of milkshakes, hot chocolate and sugary coffee; 
  • Added sugar and salt to be banned from baby food; 
  • 'Fiscal disincentives' for food high in sugar and salt; 
  • Subsidies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

“If we get this right we will save 10,000 deaths in the first five years following a cancer diagnosis. My thesis is that we have an unbalanced environment – it's not easy to make healthy choices. We've got to make it easy to make the healthy choice,” states Davies.

The gives a detailed report on how the UK Government is trying to stop obesity. It seems that a tax on added sugar in drinks came into force in April, requiring companies to hand over more of the money they make from drinks which contain more than 5g of sugar per 100ml of liquid. As a result, many soft drinks have had their recipes changed in order to avoid paying the tax and putting prices up. Sugary drinks are the biggest single source of sugar for children and teenagers.

The Government is also considering making it compulsory for all restaurants and fast food outlets to display the number of calories in each meal on their menu. Some food outlets already do this but there can be unexpected numbers of calories in popular dishes, and the Government is consulting on the plans before a decision is due in spring. In March this year, Public Health England warned Brits to crack down on the number of calories they're eating, advising people to consume no more than 1,600 per day. The watchdog says adults shouldn't eat any more than 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and 600 for dinner – this would allow for some snacks, experts said. Examples of 600-calorie meals include a tuna pasta salad and a small cereal bar, a chicken salad sandwich and a pack of crisps, or half a pepperoni pizza with a quarter of a garlic baguette and a banana. 

Dame Sally said the Government must impose mandatory rules to force firms to change spotting two-thirds of adults and a third of children in Britain are overweight. “As we know the industry has not delivered,” she said. “We have a system at the moment where people are benefiting from selling unhealthy foods and they are not paying for the harm that is doing to us as individuals, to us as a society and the costs to the NHS. Our sugar targets haven't been met so far and I think if we don't get there we will need a fiscal effort to mandate it. The same with salt. I think we should give them a chance but if they don't deliver it we need to threaten them with mandation – and then do it”.

Meanwhile, Kate Halliwell, head of UK diet and health policy at the Food and Drink Federation, said some manufacturers had been reducing sugar and calorie content in shopping baskets for more than a decade. It is promised that the government has announced £3.13bn to be given to councils in England next year for public health initiatives, such as stop smoking services, weight management services and exercise support.

Dame Sally said obesity was an issue of inequality, with children and adults in the poorest communities more likely to have diseases related to their weight at an earlier age, and lasting for longer. She said she would be accused of being “chief nanny” but it was her job to shape the environment for children who could not make their own choices.

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