Digest bites: Fat Tax

Calls for a fat tax are coming thick and fast, so what would it mean for the UK?

A fat tax, what’s that then? The so-called ‘fat tax’ is a duty applied to unhealthy foods  because of their association with poor dietary habits and obesity.

And is Britain introducing such a tax? Not yet. There have been numerous calls recently, however, calling on the Government to introduce a tax on sugary drinks in this year’s budget, to be delivered on 20 March.

What would happen if it was introduced? If the calls by food and farming charity, Sustain, were implemented for example, there would be a 20p-per-litre levy on sugary soft drinks, to raise £1bn for free fruit and school meals – a Children’s Future Fund. It would also introduce an independent body to oversee the implementation of the duty on the drinks and ensure the revenue is spent appropriately.

Is anyone else behind this? Absolutely. Sustain’s proposals garnered the support of over 60 organisations, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for Public Health.

What else does Sustain say about the duty? It has called sugary drinks a “mini-health time bomb” saying such a duty imposed on the drinks would make “the price of food reflect its true costs to society.”

Is this the only proposal of its kind? Hardly. Also in February the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges called for a 20% increase on the cost of sugary drinks, as well as fewer fast food outlets near schools and colleges and a ban on unhealthy hospital food. They say such intervention would ease the generation-after-generation effect of diet-related illness and death, but still wouldn’t offer a full solution.

Have moves like this been implemented anywhere else? Parts of America are currently trialling an experimental 20% tax on sugary drinks for a year, and the Academy proposes the UK does the same.

What does the soft drinks industry say? The British Soft Drink Association has said the industry is already doing its bit.  The Association’s director Gavin Partington said 61% of soft drinks “now contain no added sugar and we have seen soft drinks companies lead the way in committing to further, voluntary action as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal calorie-reduction pledge.” He added that putting prices up further would add strain on people’s purses “at a time when they can ill afford it”.

 

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