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'Sugar tax' needed to tackle the country's health and obesity crisis, report warns

A 20 per cent 'sugar tax' should be imposed on food and drink in a bid to help tackle the country's obesity and health crisis, according to a new report by Public Health England.

People in the UK eat too much sugar, the report warns Credit: PA

The report warns that eating and drinking vast amounts of high-sugar products is leading to weight gain, tooth decay and other health problems.

The amount of sugar people eat should be cut by at least half, it adds - and, if successful, it could save the NHS around £500 million every year.

The document goes on to make a series of recommendations as to how the government could help make this happen.

These include:

  • Introduce a tax of 10 to 20 per cent on high-sugar food and drink
  • Cutting down on cut-price offers in supermarkets, convenience stores, cafés, restaurants and takeaways
  • Imposing restrictions on advertising of high-sugar food and drink
  • Clearly define what constitutes a "high-sugar food"
  • Introduce a carefully-structured and supervised programme to reduce sugar content in everyday food and drink items, combined with reductions in portion sizes
  • Restrict the public sector to provide and sell healthier foods - including in hospitals and leisure centres
  • Accredited diet and health training courses for everyone who works in the catering, fitness and leisure sectors and others within local authorities
  • Launching a public awareness campaign
The report encourages the introduction of a 'sugar tax' Credit: PA

Currently, the report states, sugar intake across the board is above recommended levels - making up between 12 and 15 per cent of dietary energy.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) said this should be around five percent.

12%-15%
average daily sugar intake as a proportion of all calories (source: Public Health England)
5%
recommended daily sugar intake as a proportion of calories

Over-consumption in England has led to a quarter of adults, 10% of four- and five-year-olds and 19% of 10- to 11-year-olds being classed as clinically obese, it says - which comes with health consequences which cost the NHS £5.1 billion a year to treat.

Researchers found that high levels of advertising regularly bombard people - particularly children - encouraging them to buy sugary treats, while high-sugar foods are on price promotion deals more often than any other food type.

Families, individuals and official organisations all have a role to play in helping tackle the problem, the report adds.

Food is now more readily available, more heavily marketed, promoted and advertised and, in real terms, is much cheaper than ever before.

All of these nudge us towards over consumption. The changes have crept up on us and while none of this is anyone’s fault, it is time to do something about it.

Success will depend on the engagement of a wide range of people and organisations.

Actions can be started and continued by individuals, families and organisations as the wider debate and plans for implementation develop.

Any significant progress to reduce sugar intakes would yield benefits.

– Public Health England - Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action

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