'Obesity' tax comes into effect
Call to widen levy as Scots switch to sugary foods
AG Barr said it expects to largely avoid the sugar tax
Sweet-toothed Scots have responded to reformulated soft drinks by buying other foods containing sugar.
The trend has raised questions about the effectiveness of the sugar levy, which comes into effect today, and whether other foods should also be subject to the tax.
Former Chancellor George Osborne said last night that had he remained in the position he would have expanded the tax to include milk drinks.
Mr Osborne announced the new sugar tax on soft drinks in 2016 to help tackle childhood obesity.
Makers of fizzy drinks will have to pay a tax of between 18p to 24p a litre which they may or may not choose to pass on to the consumer.
Today, Geoff Ogle, chief executive at Food Standards Scotland, said the industry welcomes the levy in the fight against obesity and the positive steps the industry has taken by reformulating some soft drinks products so they contain less sugar.
But he warned that more needed to be done if it was to be effective in tackling a growing health issue.
“While we hope the soft drinks industry levy will help drive down the consumption of sugar and reduce calorie intake, the evidence in Scotland is that much more needs to be done,” he said.
He pointed to his group’s report The Scottish Diet: It needs to change 2018 showing that while purchase of sugary soft drinks had decreased from 2010 to 2016 this has been offset by an increase in sugar purchased from other foods.
“We have been encouraged by the speed at which the proposed sugar levy generated changes to the formulation of soft drinks and the question to be asked now is if other foods have the same amount of sugar or indeed more shouldn’t they be subject to a levy too?
“Reformulation is certainly helping with sugar reduction, but the levy introduction has shown the pace that can be generated when changes such as this are introduced.
“We need government, industry and individuals to work together for Scotland to have a bold and ambitious approach if we are going to change the narrative of obesity levels of 40% by 2030.”
Irn-Bru manufacturer AG Barr last month said it will effectively escape the new sugar levy after it reformulated its soft drinks.
The company said it had exceeded its target of reducing or removing sugar from 90% of its portfolio.
It now expects up to 99% will contain less than 5g of total sugars per 100ml before the implementation of the soft drinks industry levy next month.
The sugar tax is estimated to raise £240m for the Treasury – lower than the initial estimate of £500m when it was first proposed.