Sugar tax may be necessary, England's chief medical officer says

 
Sugar cubes

Related Stories

A sugar tax may have to be introduced to curb obesity rates, the chief medical officer for England has said.

Dame Sally Davies told a committee of MPs that unless the government was strong with food and drink manufacturers, it was unlikely they would reformulate their products.

She said she believed "research will find sugar is addictive", and that "we may need to introduce a sugar tax".

The food industry said it was working on reducing sugar in products.

Speaking to the health select committee, Dame Sally said: "We have a generation of children who, because they're overweight and their lack of activity, may well not live as long as my generation.

"They will be the first generation that live less, and that is of great concern."

Education urged

She said being overweight had been "normalised", adding: "I worry that we have re-sized a women's dress size so that a size 14 now was a size 12 when I was student.

"We have to find a new way - not of ostracising people who are obese and making them feel bad about themselves - but somehow of helping them to understand this is pathological and will cause them harm."

She said she thought researchers would find that sugars were addictive, and the public needed to have "a big education" over how "calorie packed" some smoothies, fruit juices and carbonated drinks were.

In November, the president of Coca-cola Europe was challenged on Newsnight about the amount of sugar in its drinks

She said: "People need to know one's fine, but not lots of them.

"We may need to move towards some form of sugar tax, but I hope we don't have to."

Earlier this year, doctors called for a soft drinks tax to reduce sugar intake.

Popular soft drinks lined up with the amount of sugar they contain stacked next to them in sugar cubes Milkshakes, cola drinks, some brands of fruit-flavoured water, energy drinks and fruit juices contain more sugar than many people think
'Voluntary pledges'

The charity Sustain, which advises the government on the food and farming industry, says the UK consumes more than 5,727 million litres of sugary soft drinks a year. Adding a 20p tax for every litre sold would raise more than £1.1bn.

The Department of Health already has a "responsibility deal", which is a series of voluntary pledges by industry designed to tackle issues such as obesity.

Facts about sugar

  • Evidence shows most adults and children in the UK eat more sugar than is recommended as part of a healthy balanced diet
  • Food and drinks that have a lot of added sugar contain calories, but often have few other nutrients
  • Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay, especially eaten between meals
  • Sugar found naturally in whole fruit is less likely to cause tooth decay than juices or blends because the sugar is contained within the body of the fruit
  • Source: NHS Choices

Much of the focus of those pledges is on reducing salt and calorie count rather than sugar per se.

And ministers are also pushing ahead with front-of-pack labelling, which includes information about sugar, but again, this will be voluntary.

Front-and-back labelling will include a combination of colour coding and nutritional information that will be used to show how much fat, salt and sugar and how many calories are in each product.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "To help the nation to be healthier by eating fewer calories, including sugar, we are working with industry through the Responsibility Deal.

"This work has already delivered results but we have always been clear that, if food and drink companies fail to act, we will look at other options and are keeping all international evidence under review."

Terry Jones, of the Food and Drink Federation, said any extra tax on sugar would "hit the poorest families hardest at a time when they can least afford it."

Sugar content was already clearly labelled among products' ingredients, Mr Jones said.

He said: "Food and drink producers in the UK have taken action to reduce salt and saturated fat in the diet, in line with robust evidence linking excessive consumption of these nutrients with a negative impact on health."

Prof Barry Everitt, Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, said pinning down whether sugar was actually addictive was a complex matter.

He said sugar - and fats - did impact on the chemistry of the brain's reward circuits - but in a much smaller way than drugs such as cocaine.

He said: "The important issue is that some individuals lose control over their food, especially sugar (and junk or fat-rich) food. This small sub-group might, then be viewed as 'addicted', but it may also be discovered that the loss of control in this sub-group might have a predisposing condition.

"The message that 'we'd better watch out for this sugar stuff is misleading', as far as I am concerned, because it suggests if you eat it you risk becoming addicted and the evidence does not support that."

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1399.

    Ha ha haaaa...... now the revenues from tobacco are falling, the government needs to find the revenue source from elsewhere. Now listen to you all moan, ha ha ha haaaaa, you were warned, this is the tip of the iceberg!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1398.

    1392 "Nutritional data are normalised per 100ml or 100g for comparison between products"

    Yes, I can see that when I get my magnifying glass out. My point is that food manufacturers don't like clear labelling. If a pot of yogurt contains, say, 200kcal, they will typically write "only 100 calories" on the front and then in tiny letters underneath "per 1/2 pot serving".

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1397.

    This morining I heard on the radio that they want to tax sugar bcause it ti bad for you and the eating protein is as bad as smoking. Thank goodness fat is still healthy!!!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1396.

    435.T8-eh-T8
    What you people today do not realise is that jobs were a lot more calorie consuming than they are now. Today with manufacturing industry a shadow of its former self, jobs are more sedentry. Also, with big employers of yesteryear (multiple thousands) a lot of the workers lived within walking cycling distance & then you were pretty much on your feet for your whole shift!.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1395.

    1381.Aluminiumluv " a ban on advertising fatty/sugary foods"

    So, no advertising of fruit juices, fruit, lots of veg as they contain sugar; no advertising of butter: what is it if not fat? Or eggs (fat)
    How much sugar or fat makes something sugary or fatty?
    I suppose we should stop having Mary Berry or the Great British Bake-off on TV as they feature sugary, fatty foods like cakes & biscuits.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1394.

    1359 It is difficult to cook so late at night, but if you set aside the weekends you could make and freeze lovely dinners which would not take long. I very often make too much when I cook, that goes into meal size dishes which then go straight into the oven or if it is a pasta dish on the hob, provided the food is properly thawed you will have a lovely dinner with little or no effort

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1393.

    Quote from Suki 1380;
    "Working mothers probably rely on convenience foods. It is time consuming to prepare meals from scratch."

    My partner and I are "working parents" our kids eat brown bread, lots of veg, fizzy drinks are banned. Lunches are low fat, with low sugar squash. Healthy kids. Working parents don't have to feed children sugary food, they choose to because they are lazy and uneducated.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1392.

    1389.Starfish
    8 Minutes ago
    We don't need a tax, we just need clearer food labelling. Current legislation is toothless (pardon the pun).

    Display in numbers readable by the over-40s the TOTAL number of calories in the pack. Not "per serving" or "1/3 of a pizza contains..." etc.


    +++

    Nutritional data are normalised per 100ml or 100g for comparison between products.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1391.

    1390.joe doe
    11 Minutes ago
    wrong fluoride is highly toxic and has been banned in lots of countries yet the health authority approved it for drinking water and tooth paste I think they need to back off and let people decide for them selves instead of stinking there noses in.

    +++

    Using Fluoride toothpaste is NOT compulsory!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1390.

    it seems to be a trend that choices have been made by the government taking away our right to choose for our selves. sugar is not the real issue wrong fluoride is highly toxic and has been banned in lots of countries yet the health authority approved it for drinking water and tooth paste I think they need to back off and let people decide for them selves instead of stinking there noses in.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1389.

    We don't need a tax, we just need clearer food labelling. Current legislation is toothless (pardon the pun).

    Display in numbers readable by the over-40s the TOTAL number of calories in the pack. Not "per serving" or "1/3 of a pizza contains..." etc.

    Outlaw deceptive labelling such as "organic natural low-fat" in products with added sugar.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1388.

    1385. news_monitor "You forgot three of the most commonest 'things' now lacking in British Society: correct use of capital letters, correct spelling and correct punctuation"

    Poor grammar skills are "most commonest" too! :D

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1387.

    Wait for it, 'Tax on exercise', so that you can get rid of your 'taxed' sugar intake ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1386.

    What is it that makes politicians believe you can cure any evil by TAXING it. If this were the answer then tax AIDS and magically it would be eradicated. If Dame Sally Davies believes this is the answer then she is in the wrong job and should resign immediately as it would appear she has no concept of how to eradicate a problem. Solve the problem at source and don't tax the innocent majority

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1385.

    1366. makoti
    2 things lacking in british Society Disipline&Integerity If more people valued these Britain would prosper and grow.

    You forgot three of the most commonest 'things' now lacking in British Society: correct use of capital letters, correct spelling and correct punctuation.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1384.

    If another tax creates a solution then lets tax senior civil servants, chief medical officers and the like. Taxation to them is addictive. There are too many of this sort of person in our country. One minute they are bleating on about obesity and the next bemoaning that people are starving.

    Tax solves nothing: all it does is put up prices. Food should not be taxed - remember Osborne's Pasty!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1383.

    "If it tastes (too) good, spit it out!"

    - Jack Lalanne, many decades ago (with small update by me.)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12272311

    He must have had a crystal ball.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1382.

    @1375 curriemarketing
    Do you eat bananas, applies, grapes? Any idea how much sugar there is in them? Even healthy foodstuffs contain sugars, all of which can add to the obesity problem.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1381.

    Tax is part of the answer, tighter legislation against certain foods with very high Sat fat content and hidden sugar content. In addition we need much more education of both children and adults, perhaps a ban on advertising fatty/sugary foods, reduce the availability and marketing of such things that are directed at Children and promote home grown, organic vegetable production with tax proceeds.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1380.

    Working mothers probably rely on convenience foods. It is time consuming to prepare meals from scratch but I expect it would be quite expensive to manufacture nutritious ready meals which would feed a hungry family. It is a problem that is not going to be addressed by a tax on sugar.

 

Page 3 of 72

 

More Health stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

BBC Future

(Getty Images)

Should horn honkers be punished?

How tech could make driving more peaceful Read more...

Programmes

  • European Union's anti-terrorism chief Gilles de KerchoveHARDtalk Watch

    Anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove on the threat from returning Islamic State fighters

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.