Levy on Sugary Soft Drinks Coming to Britain in 2018

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Photo: New Food Magazine

In Great Britain, where childhood obesity has reached crisis proportions, the government has just put forth a plan to tax sugar in both domestically-made and imported soft drinks starting in 2018. The plan was presented to Parliament as part of his annual budget proposal by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who anticipates the levy will raise as much as £520 million ($740 million) annually. Much of that sum will be dedicated to school sports, he said.

A report on the plan by New Food magazine said this morning (March 22) that those who have been advocating for such a levy are overjoyed, but – as you’d expect – the soft drinks industry considers it “simply absurd” to target “the only category in the food and drink sector which has consistently reduced sugar intake in recent years – down 13.6% since 2012.”

Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drink said his is “the only category with an ambitious plan for the years ahead – in 2015 we agreed a calorie reduction goal of 20% by 2020.

“By contrast,” he went on, “sugar and calorie intake from all other major take home food categories is increasing – which makes the targeting of soft drinks simply absurd.”

Those on the other side of the issue no doubt think it is equally absurd that, as Mr. Osborne put it, “Five year old children [today] are consuming their body weight in sugar every year, [and] experts predict that within a generation over half of all boys, and 70% of girls could be overweight or obese.”

Indeed, New Food reported, “Public Health England recently revealed that four to 10 year old children consume around 22kg (49 lbs) of sugar a year,” and the Chancellor called that a significant contributor to the childhood obesity crisis.

He said: “One of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks.

“A can of cola typically has nine teaspoons of sugar in it. Some popular drinks have as many as 13.

“That can be more than double a child’s recommended added sugar intake.”

The plan is to not implement the levy until 2018 to give the industry time to prepare, he noted.

His plan calls for two levy levels –one for total sugar content above 5 grams per 100 ml and a higher band for drinks containing more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 ml.

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