Mixed reactions to Government's 'sugar tax'

Claire Dodd

Claire Dodd

01 December 2015

The Health Select Committee’s recommendation that a tax on sugary drinks be introduced in the UK has been met with mixed reactions from the trade.

MPs belonging to the committee yesterday said there was 'compelling evidence” that a tax on sugar would help combat child obesity. It said: 'Revenue raised by a sugary drinks tax could and should be targeted to deliver the most help to communities where children are most severely affected by childhood obesity.' Calls to introduce the tax have been led by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

While there was support from some factions, other groups have branded the plans an extra burden on an already overstretched on-trade. As previously reported by Imbibe, some bar and restaurant companies, such as Leon, have already introduced the ‘tax’ on a voluntary basis. The natural fast food chain introduced a 10p levy on all drinks that contain added sugar, from 17 September.

In a statement, Leon said: 'We’re joining them [Jamie Oliver and Sustain] in their quest to tackle the crisis head on, and show the government how to stop sugar ruining lives. We know that adding the 10p 'sugar tax' to drinks at Leon will not only help people to make healthy choices, it will also help to improve the damage that has already been done.'

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, however, has taken a more cautious stance. In a statement it said: 'We must stress that a sugar tax on its own is unlikely to address the majority of the Government's health concerns.

'This additional cost will be felt by pubs and bars, many of whom have worked very hard over recent years to provide their customers with healthy options. Licensed operators have increased the sophistication of their alcohol labelling to provide customers with information on alcohol units and calorific content and to make an informed choice. Eating out is always a treat but restaurants can be huge role models of a great food experience for kids - to learn about healthy choices and the sociable side of eating.

'These businesses are not only driving growth but helping to reinforce positive attitudes towards healthy eating and we hope that the Government recognises and builds upon this good work.'

The Select Committee’s findings come as health lobbying group Action on Sugar began its inaugural ‘National Sugar Awareness Week’, which runs from 30 November to 6 December. Action on Sugar says the campaign focuses on the key actions that the Government needs to take to establish a successful sugar reduction programme in the UK, while highlighting the likely impact of David Cameron’s Childhood Obesity Strategy which is set to be released in the new year.

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