Monday 13 July 2015
BMA report says use money to subsidies fruit and vegetables, and demands regulatory action from taxation to clampdown on marketing to children
Britain’s doctors are calling for the government to impose a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to pay for subsidies on fruit and vegetables in an effort to slow the obesity epidemic.
A report from the British Medical Association demands tough regulatory action on a whole range of issues, from taxation to a clampdown on the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children, mandatory standards on the food available in all schools and bans on clusters of fast food outlets.
“Doctors are increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet, which is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year, and has the greatest impact on the NHS budget, costing £6bn annually,” said Prof Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA board of science.
“While sugar-sweetened drinks are very high in calories they are of limited nutritional value and when people in the UK are already consuming far too much sugar, we are increasingly concerned about how they contribute towards conditions like diabetes.”
Other countries have begun to experiment with sugar taxes – the most wide-reaching of which is in Mexico. Although it set at 10%, public health experts have recently reported that it is having an effect. Berkeley in California also brought in a tax recently, after a battle with food industry champions.
“We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. If a tax of at least 20% is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people,” said Hollins.
“We know that the majority of the UK population, particularly low-income households, are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, so financial measures should also be considered to subsidize their price, which has risen by 30% since 2008.