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September 15, 2022

UK ‘considering scrapping soft drinks sugar tax’

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force in 2018.

By James Beeson

New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is reportedly weighing up scrapping the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (more commonly known as the sugar tax), in a move that could have knock-on effects for fizzy drinks brand owners.

The UK government is reviewing its anti-obesity strategy for England in light of the cost-of-living crisis, it has confirmed. Plans to deter people from eating so-called junk food through restrictions on advertising, special offers and product placement – which have already been put back by a year – are on hold while the review takes place.

However, according to The Times newspaper, the review could go further, with Truss’ government said to be preparing to axe the sugar tax, which was introduced four years ago.

The UK Prime Minister is known to be a critic of so-called “nanny state” policies and has previously criticised the sugar tax, saying “taxes on treats hit those on the lowest incomes”. Health Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Theresa Coffey is also believed to be in favour of the move.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care did not comment on the report when approached by Just Drinks. The British Soft Drinks Association also declined to comment.

The sugar tax was introduced in the UK in 2018 and consists of a levy of 18p a litre for drinkers with five to eight grams of sugar per 100ml and 24p per litre for those with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml. The tax generates around GBP300m (US$346m) a year in revenue for the government.

Many soft drinks brand owners have reformulated products to avoid paying the levy.

Mhairi Brown, policy and public affairs manager at UK campaign group Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, claimed the tax had led to 48 million kilos of sugar being “removed per year from the nation’s diet”, citing the period 2015 to 2019.

“Without doubt, the Soft Drinks Industry Levy demonstrated best practice for both business and for the nation’s health, especially those from the most deprived areas,” Brown said. “Measures like this must now be championed and protected by the Government to help prevent the unnecessary deaths and suffering of thousands of people, caused by unhealthy diets, whilst saving the NHS billions of pounds a year.”

During her campaign to become Prime Minister, Truss said she would scrap plans to restrict multi-buy deals on food and drinks that were high in fat, salt, or sugar, and would not impose any new taxes on unhealthy food.

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