Will the UK be forced to introduce a sugar tax?

Will the UK be forced to introduce a sugar tax?

England's chief medical officer has said a “sugar tax” may be needed in the UK if voluntary measures by the industry fail to tackle the rising problem of obesity.

In her annual report, published today (27 March), Professor Dame Sally Davies urged producers to “ramp up” the reformulation of their products to use less added sugar. She also called for the public to be educated on what she branded the “high sugar” content of fruit juices, smoothies and CSDs.

This could be helped through “clear and consistent labelling”, the report said. Under the UK Government's 'Responsibility Deal', CSD producers have agreed to cut the calorie content in some of their products.

But, Davies warned: “If voluntary efforts fail to deliver, then we as a society may need to consider the public health benefits that could be derived from regulation such as a ‘sugar tax’.” 

Calls for a tax on soft drinks in the UK have been repeated by health campaigners over the last year. In January, campaign group Action on Sugar launched a campaign urging CSD producers to cut added sugar in their products by 30% over the next five years, or face a sugar tax. 

Elsewhere in her report today, Davies attacked UK retailers for being “irresponsible” in the way they sell alcohol. “I deplore the methods which retailers use to entice consumers to purchase ever-greater quantities of  alcohol,” the report said.

Davies said she welcomed the UK Government's plan to introduce a ban on sales below the cost of duty plus VAT from next month. However, she argued that a minimum unit price of GBP0.45 (US$0.75) would be “more effective in reducing premature death”.

The report also revealed that an "expert group" is drawing up new guidelines on safe drinking levels.