Sugar tax go ahead and new advertising rules

The government took a big step towards implementation of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks this week by including draft legislation in its Finance Bill.

The new levy will be applied in two rates: a lower one for added sugar drinks with a total sugar content of five grams or more per 100 millilitres, plus a higher one for those with eight grams or more per 100 millilitres.

The specific rates will not be announced until next year, but analyses using figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility suggest the tax will amount to about 18p in the lower band and 24p in the higher one, per 100 millilitres.

The government reiterated that the policy “encourages producers of added sugar soft drinks to reformulate their products […] and reduce portion sizes”. Some are already taking steps to do so.

However, industry representative groups, the Food and Drink Federation and the British Soft Drinks Association, are expected to continue to fight the levy.

The announcement coincided with new rules to curb online advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products aimed at children.

The changes, which will bring non-broadcasting rules in line with those for TV from July next year, will lead to a “major reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks seen by children”, said the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

Campaigners said the rules don’t go far enough. “CAP will only apply the restrictions when children are over 25% of the audience,” said Children’s Food Trust coordinator Malcolm Clark. “This figure provides insufficient protection to children, whilst giving parents little knowledge of what is and isn’t covered,” he added.

The Local Government Association also urged the government to extend the new rules and give councils new powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

The government was criticised for not including new regulations on advertising in its Childhood Obesity Plan, favouring an industry-led approach instead.

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