28 July 2021

Sugan and Salt Tax

In 2018 a Sugar tax was introduced on the soft drinks industry and the result was that most of the manufacturers reformulated their products to minimise the cost to the consumer and to ensure they were providing a more healthy product. The revenue raised was less than expected but this did not have an adverse effect on the food industry nor the quantity of soft drinks sold.

The aim was to tackle the increasing childhood obesity problem in the UK and also the risk of developing life shortening medical conditions.

Henry Dimbleby, author of the National Food strategy  report in 2018 and co founder of Leon Restaurants and the sustainable restaurant association, has recommended that the Government introduce a salt and sugar tax. The money raised from the tax could then be used to extend the free school meals provision and also support the poorest in the country to improve their diets.

The incentive has come from the sad reality that the large scale obesity problem in the UK has led to a significant number of increased deaths due to the Covid pandemic. 

Poor diet contributes to 64,000 deaths a year in England alone and costs the economy £74bn. More than half of the population aged over 45 now live with a diet- related health condition.

Our eating habits are also having a significant impact on the environment and account for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Following his stay in hospital with the Covid infection, Boris Johnston promised he would do all he could to tackle the obesity crisis and support the nation to modify their diet and become healthier.

Highly processed foods are much cheaper than healthy food when compared by calorie intake.

It has been recommended that the new tax be set at £3/kg for sugar and £6/kg for salt sold wholesale for use in processed foods, or in restaurants and catering businesses.

This would represent a very dramatic increase in the cost of these two important ingredients.

The tax could raise as much as £3.4bn a year, however the revenue is likely to be less as the manufacturers are likely to voluntarily reduce the amount of sugar and salt they use in their food to reduce the cost to themselves and the consumer.

The National Food Strategy recognised that by raising prices of some products the sugar and salt tax would be likely to put extra financial strain on the poorest families. The following recommendations have therefore been made to get fresh food and ingredients to low- income households with children:-

  • money raised from the new taxes is used to extend free school meals to families with a household income of £20,000 or less
  • increasing spending on other schemes to improve the diets of families on low incomes and improving food education
  • a trial of a "Community Eatwell" programme involving GPs prescribing fruit and vegetables to people with poor diets and low incomes.

Can we hope that the Government can push this legislation through to ensure that everything is done to improve the nation’s diet?

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