New sugar tax to double the cost of your favourite snacks?

17 September 2014

sugar-is-a-drugSugar. Yummy, delicious sugar. It tastes nice, so we like to eat it, even if we are all obese and getting fatter/diabetes/rotten teeth. But what can we do about it? Well a new report into tooth decay recommends slashing the maximum recommended intake to almost a quarter of WHO limits, with a bonus ‘sugar tax’ to help us all decide not to eat sugary treats anymore.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently lowered the recommended sugar limits to a maximum of 50g per day for the average adult and ideally no more than 25g, but a new report from doctors at University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine warns this is still too high, calling for a limit of just 14g per day.

The study, which looked at rates of tooth decay in comparison to average sugar intake, found that people who eat little or no added sugar had little or no tooth decay. As a result, the authors want to impose a maximum sugar intake of five per cent of total calories per day and ideally less than three per cent. Three per cent of total calories would be around 14g for the average adult - less than half a can of fizzy drink or four blocks of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate. For children this would be even lower, with seven-year-olds munching no more than 11g of sugar, or three squares of Dairy Milk.

Now, before anyone starts ranting that no-one, let alone a seven year old, should be munching bars of dairy milk everyday, the sugar limit would also include all sugar added to food by manufacturers (ever checked the sugar content of a ready meal?) or at home, but also natural sugars present in things like honey and fruit juice.

Co-author Professor Philip James, Honorary Professor of Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and past President World Obesity Federation, said  “A sugars tax should be developed to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks."

"This would be simplest as a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, since taxing individual foods depending on their sugar content is an enormously complex administrative process. The retail price of sugary drinks and sugar rich foods needs to increase by at least 20 per cent to have a reasonable effect on consumer demand so this means a major tax on sugars as a commodity. The level will depend on expert analyses but my guess is that a 100 per cent tax might be required.”

A 100% tax seems quite hefty, but he might be right. Demand for sweet treats is fairly inelastic- meaning that if you want one, you will buy one, without worrying too much about the cost. In order for a sugar tax to have an actual effect, and not just be absorbed into rising costs of living, it needs to be a doozy of a tax, doubling the cost of the ‘bad’ items.

But would it work? If you really want a Mars bar would you pay £1.20 for a Mars bar if you really needed to work rest and play? Or 84p for a can of coke? And let’s not forget that once upon a time Freddos were 10p. Look at them now even without a sugar tax surcharge.

Let’s face it, we probably have all paid similar prices for these products at airports or motorway service stations in the past. But would we just happily keep on paying this amount or would such a high price make us cut down our consumption? Or should the Government just naff off and leave us to enjoy whatever we want to fill our faces with in peace?

TOPICS:   Health


  • Shaune
    People will just much on sugar alternatives which cause cancer and other issues, It won't stop people getting fat. etc..
  • kv
    you'd have to double the price of all fruit then too
  • jim
    there is a new report saying that some artificial sweetners can cause diabetes so nothing is good to eat anymore.

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