Public health experts have called for the government to introduce a so-called ‘pudding tax’ in order to help tackle high rates of sugar consumption amongst children.
The calls for the introduction of a pudding tax come following the recent publication of research which suggested that the average child consumes 18 years’ worth of sugar by the time they reach the age of ten.
The tax would cover such foods as biscuits, sweets and cakes, and would aim to encourage manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their products.
Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, is backing the introduction of a pudding tax. She recently stated that more taxes on unhealthy foods need to be introduced, as she is ‘not yet convinced’ that manufacturers can be relied on to reduce sugar content voluntarily.
The government is already taking steps to combat childhood obesity and high rates of sugar consumption amongst children. In April 2018, it introduced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which applies to the packaging and importation of soft drinks containing added sugar. 457 manufacturers are currently signed up to this levy.
Official data recently revealed that the Levy generated £153.8 million for HMRC by the end of October 2018. Traders pay one of two rates: either the 18p per litre ‘standard rate’, or the 24p per litre ‘higher rate’.
Data has revealed that the Soft Drinks Industry Levy generated £153.8 million for HMRC in the year-to-date, up to the end of October.
First announced in the 2016 Budget, the Levy came into effect from April 2018. It was introduced as part of a package of measures designed to combat childhood obesity.
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy applies to the packaging and importation of soft drinks containing added sugar.
According to HMRC, there are currently 457 traders registered for the Levy. Traders pay one of two rates: either the ‘standard rate’ of 18p per litre, which applies to drinks with sugar content between five grams and up to (but not including) eight grams per 100ml, or the ‘higher rate’ of 24p per litre, which applies to drinks with sugar content equal to or greater than eight grams per 100ml.
Commenting on the data, Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘[The] figures show the positive impact the soft drinks levy is having by raising millions of pounds for sports facilities and healthier eating in schools, as well as encouraging manufacturers to cut sugar in over half the drinks found in UK stores.’
Ahead of its introduction on 6 April, the government has published guidance on how to pay the so-called ‘sugar tax’ and file Soft Drinks Industry Levy returns.
The government announced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy during the 2016 Budget, with the stated aim of tackling childhood obesity.
The Levy will be charged on volumes according to total sugar content, with a main rate charge of 18p per litre for drinks containing above five grams of sugar per 100 millilitres, and a higher rate charge of 24p per litre for drinks with more than eight grams of sugar per 100 millilitres.
Commenting on the issue, Ben Reynolds, Deputy Chief Executive of food charity Sustain, said: ‘We championed a sugary drinks tax primarily to benefit children’s health, and already we have seen a rapid reaction from the soft drinks industry in reformulating products.
‘Whilst this is only one way to tackle the problem, we hope that the higher price of sugary drinks and increased awareness leads to less consumption of sweet and sugary products.’
Using the new guidance, companies will be able to check whether their product is liable for the Levy, and how much will need to be paid. It also outlines when and how to register for the Levy, and details the information that must be included on a Soft Drinks Industry Levy return.
The Government’s new ‘sugar tax’ could impose an ‘arbitrary burden’ on many families, the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has warned.
The sugar tax, announced in the 2016 Budget, will be introduced during 2018, and is intended to help reduce childhood obesity.
However, the TPA’s research has suggested that the tax does not take into account the sugar content of products: it found that some coffee shop beverages contained more sugar than popular fizzy drinks.
These coffee shop drinks are not subject to the sugar tax, despite their high sugar content – however, many fizzy drinks, with lower sugar contents than those drinks served in coffee shops, are.
In addition, of the 49 drinks analysed, the TPA found that the ten with the highest amounts of sugar will not be taxed.
Fizzy drinks will be subject to the tax, but drinks such as pure fruit juices and milk-based products will be excluded.
Jonathan Isaby, TPA chief executive, commented: ‘The evidence shows that the sugar tax has nothing to do with the sugar content of products, so it is farcical to suggest that this will have any positive impact on people’s diet or lifestyle choices’.
However, a Treasury spokesperson stated: ‘The levy will be charged on soft drinks because they are the main source of added sugar in children’s and teenagers’ diets, many with no intrinsic nutritional value’.
The NHS is set to introduce a new 20% ‘sugar tax’ within hospital and health care centre cafes in England, in an effort to combat obesity.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has proposed that the new levy on all sugary drinks and snacks in NHS cafes and vending machines will be introduced in stages, and should be in place by 2020.
The new tax is aimed at deterring people from purchasing high-sugar goods, and is designed to help tackle the increasing problem of obesity.
Mr Stevens has also urged MPs to take action by forcing food companies to reduce the amount of sugar going into their products.
Despite initially voicing his opposition to the idea, Prime Minister David Cameron has now stated that he will not rule out a national tax on sugar.
Public Health England recently explored new measures to address the issue of obesity and to reduce sugar consumption, including a new levy on goods that contain excess amounts of sugar.
Mr Stevens stated: ‘Because of the role that the NHS occupies in national life, all of us working in the NHS have a responsibility not just to support those who look after patients, but to also draw attention to and make the case for some of the wider changes that will actually improve the health of this country’.
The money raised from the tax would be channelled back into the NHS, helping to improve the health of the service’s workforce.
22 May 2015
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman has recently announced the possibility of taxing sugary foods in order to pay for the medical costs of obesity in the UK.
According to the minister, food companies should be aware that if they produce food that could lead to bad health and lifestyles then they may face penalties. However, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously said that there would be no ‘sugar tax’.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, Mr Freeman said: ‘I don’t think heavy-handed legislation is the way to go. But I think that where there is a commercial product which confers costs on all of us as a society then we could be looking at recouping some of that through taxation’.
Recent figures show that a high proportion of UK adults are overweight. In response, Public Health England released a draft report outlining ‘options for action’ which included a ‘sugar tax’. It is thought that a 20% tax on sugary foods would reduce obesity in the UK by 1.3%. Public Health England has been an executive agency of the Department of Health in the UK since 2013.