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Experts call for sugar tax to include sweets as well as drinks

sugary drinks

Campaign group Action on Sugar is calling for the next government to extend the sugary drinks tax to include sweets. In 2018, the drinks tax will be introduced, part of a strategy by the government to help tackle the obesity crisis.

According to Diabetes UK, 59% of women and 68% of men are either overweight or obese.

Chocolate and sweets are already included in Public Health England’s (PHE) sugar reduction programme as one of the top nine food categories which contributes sugar to the diets of children and therefore manufacturers have been asked to reduce sugar in their products by 20% by 2020.

However, Action on Sugar is urging the next government to also implement a mandatory sugar levy on all sweets that contain high levels of sugar to ensure maximum impact of the sugar tax.

Action on Sugar is requesting that the sugar tax, as already approved by HM Treasury for sugar-sweetened soft drinks, is mandatory for all sweets produced by manufacturers and retailers, at a minimum of 20%, particularly those products sold in coffee shops and restaurants, as these often contain the highest amount of sugar and overall calories.

Chocolate and sweet confectionery contributes 9% total sugar to the diets of children (4-10 year olds) and 11% in teenagers (11-18 years) yet contain little or no nutritional value and contributes significantly to tooth decay.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Chairman of Action on Sugar, says: “The levy should be structured by the HM Treasury as per the soft drinks industry levy, whereby it is aimed at manufacturers to encourage them to reduce sugar in their overall product ranges. Any revenue raised should go towards improving health in the UK.”

Action on Sugar also explained that the current government obesity plan omits evidence-based recommendations, such as restricting the marketing of food and drink high in sugar, saturated fat and salt. They explained: “The next government needs to bring in tough measures to ensure compliance and put public health first before the profits of the food industry.”

They warn that voluntary sugar reduction via reformulating the ingredients alone will not combat obesity.

Registered Nutritionist Jenny Rosborough, Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar says: “Although Public Health England does not recommend that confectionery is eaten as part of a healthy diet, these foods are one of the biggest contributors of sugar to the diets of children. The government obesity plan must be revised to include tougher measures to ensure these products are not heavily marketed or promoted and that the manufacturers produce healthier versions with fewer calories.”

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