Sugary food tax calls as report shows 82% reduction below voluntary target

According to the latest figures, sugar reductions in the food industry were as much as 82% below the Government’s voluntary target for 2020, leading to renewed tax calls to combat unhealthy diets.

Retailers’ own-brand and manufacturer-brand products reduced carbs by just 3.5% between 2015 and 2020, according to analysis published Thursday by the Office for Health Development and Disparities.

This was well below the government’s voluntary target of 20% for the food industry by 2020.

The deferred sugar reduction report, scheduled for release last year, showed that the amount of sugar in puddings in the same category decreased by only 2.3%, the amount of sugar in ice cream and confectionery decreased by 7.2%, and the amount of sugar in yogurts and fraiss decreased by 13.5%.

However, the data also showed that the Soft Drinks Industry Tax, a tax introduced in 2018 to combat childhood obesity, is making progress.



A voluntary approach has been shown to fail to provide the level of progress necessary to make any significant and lasting change.

Obesity Health Alliance

The percentage change in sales-weighted average sugar in taxable products decreased by 46% compared to 2015.

Sales-weighted average is defined as the average weighted by total sales, and more weight is given to items that are purchased more.

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) said the report’s findings showed that voluntary reduction strategies were not sufficient and urged the Government to increase the food tax.

Katharine Jenner, Director of the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), says: “A voluntary approach has not proven to provide the level of progress necessary to make significant and lasting change.

“Instead, excessive and unnecessary amounts of harmful sugar are added to food and beverage products, and this sugar must be reduced and reduced if we are to improve the health of the nation.

“We hope the Department for Health Promotion and Inequalities has learned lessons from this vital monitoring of food industry activities and that ministers now fully understand that insufficient progress has been made and alternative levers are needed.

“Evidence shows that the Soft Drink Industry Tax (SDIL) is a tremendous success – reducing sugar intake without causing a drop in sales, even for low-income people.

“The government should now explore ways to expand this model to fix the deteriorated food environment and make the healthy option the easiest and most affordable option for everyone.”

The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.

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