A TAX ON sugary drinks should be included in the 2013 budget, according to a new report published today. At 20p per litre, this would equate to some £1bn a year, with the money diverted to a ring-fenced “Children’s Future Fund” for programmes to improve children’s health. Initiatives could include free school meals and the provision of more fruit and vegetable snacks to schoolchildren.
The report, “A Children’s Future Fund – how food duties could provide the money to protect children’s health and the world they grow up in”, also recommends that the VAT system is revised in the longer-term to reflect the healthiness of food and drinks, and that unsustainable foods also carry a levy.
More than 60 organisations have backed the plans, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association for the Study of Obesity, Friends of the Earth, the National Heart Forum and the Royal Society for Public Health.
However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) suggested the idea would “hit the poorest families hardest”. It also highlighted the commitment food and drink manufacturers are showing to improve public health through reformulation, consumer education and healthier options. Last week the FDF published a compilation of some of the initiatives their members have introduced. Over the last five years, for instance, there has been a 10% reduction in salt levels among FDF members’ products.
Diet-related illness still costs the NHS £6bn every year. Mike Rayner from the Department of Public Health at Oxford University argued that the “modest proposal” would go some way towards making the price of food reflect its true costs to society. “Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.”
Sustain campaigns director Charlie Powell added: “A sugary drinks duty in the Budget 2013 [is] a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much needed money to protect children’s health.”