‘Tax sugary drinks’ - MPs demand

The report is published ahead of the Government's obesity strategy due next year
30/11/2015 - 09:13
The Commons Health Select Committee has called for a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to be introduced, as it publishes its first report into childhood obesity.

The Childhood obesity - brave and bold action’ report highlights nine areas of improvement including improved education and information about diet, universal school food standards and greater powers for local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity.

The Committee also calls for tougher controls on price promotions, marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink, and a centrally led reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Committee, said: “One third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, and the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived.

“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 this childhood obesity strategy.”

The Committee believes a sugary drinks tax is ‘a clearly defined policy recommendation that can be simply and swiftly implemented’ and is an ‘essential part of a wider package of measures to tackle childhood obesity’.

The report states: “We consider that a tax on full sugar soft drinks is a proportionate policy response and also sends a clear message to parents and their children about the importance of reducing sugar consumption.

“The tax should be designed and introduced alongside an evaluation of its effectiveness. This should include specific consideration of its financial as well as health impact on different socio-economic groups. We also recommend a sunset clause so that if it becomes clear that it is not effective it can be withdrawn.”

The childhood obesity strategy should also introduce universal school food standards, including the addition of nutritional guidelines for packed lunches across all schools in both the state and private sector, according to the report.

The report also calls for changes in planning legislation for local authorities, in order to simplify the processes for limiting the number of unhealthy food outlets in local areas. Impact on health should also be a factor in planning consideration.

Wollaston adds: “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."

The report states: “A sugary drinks tax is an essential part of a wider package of measures to tackle childhood obesity. We were told that action should be taken on all fronts, and that we no longer have the luxury of ‘picking and choosing’ between different actions, as it is clear that none of them will be sufficient on their own.”

The Government is expected to publish its childhood obesity strategy in the new year, however David Cameron has consistently ruled out the introduction of a sugary drinks tax.

To read the full report from the Health Select Committee, click here.

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