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UK MPs seek tighter measures on sugary drinks to tackle childhood obesity

Published 30 November 2015

The UK members of parliament are seeking 20% tax on sugary drinks and a ban on the propaganda of unhealthy foods to children during popular television shows.

sugar tax

The Commons Health Select committee report identifies nine areas to tackle excessive sugar consumption, especially among children.

Prominent among them are strong controls on price promotions, such as two-for-one offers, of unhealthy food and drink, and tougher controls on their marketing and advertising.

The other recommendations include labeling of single portions of products with added sugar to show the content in teaspoons, better education and information on diet, having universal school food standards, enhancing powers of local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity, and a reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink.

The committee calls on the government to be more proactive in its efforts to tackle obesity.

The Commons Health Select committee chairman Dr Sarah Wollaston said: "One third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. This has serious consequences for both their current and future health and wellbeing and we cannot continue to fail these children.

"There are many causes and no one single or simplistic approach will provide the answer. We therefore urge the Prime Minister to make a positive and lasting difference to children's health and life chances through bold and wide ranging measures within his childhood obesity strategy.

"We believe that if the government fails to act, the problem will become far worse. A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible. We believe that a sugary drinks tax should be included in these measures with all proceeds clearly directed to improving our children's health."

Prime Minister David Cameron has been against a sugar tax.

The Food and Drink Federation has opposed the committee recommendations. Citing a survey, it said only four in ten Britons think introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks would be effective in tackling obesity.

Also, 67% respondents to the survey opined that the tax would penalise the people who consume soft drinks responsibly.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said: "It's disappointing that the Committee has missed its chance to add a robustly independent voice to the obesity debate.

"No-one seems to have considered hard-pressed consumers in all this. Consumers already pay billions in VAT on food and drink. As a result of the arbitrary new tax recommended by the Committee, which, if introduced, would inevitably be increased year-on-year and extended to other foods, would leave consumers paying significantly more, every week, for the products they love."

Earlier this year, the British Medical Association called for a 20% extra tax on sugary drinks to fight obesity.

In a 'Food for thought' report, the association said that tax should be introduced on all sugar-sweetened beverages, which will increase the price by around 20%.

Image: UK MPs seek 20% tax on sugary drinks. Photo: courtesy of iStockphoto.