Despite the UK’s attempted to curb obesity rates by taxing sugary drinks, the new measure is “not a solution to the sugar problem”, according to chief medical officer of Intelligent Health and Catering News ME columnist Dr Graham Simpson.
The tax, implemented in 2018, will see companies assessed on the volume of sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import, with two bands: one for total sugar content above five grams per 100 millilitres; a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks, with more than eight grams per 100 millilitres.
Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded.
UK Treasury chief George Osborne claimed that the health implications of sugary drinks costs the UK economy $38bn a year, which is more than half the entire National Health Service (NHS) paybill.
Reacting to the news, Dr Simpson said: “It’s a step in the right direction, but if we look at things honestly this will likely hardly make a dent in the bigger picture.
“Sugar is added to upwards of 80% of the products available in our supermarkets, and even if we are to see reductions in the overall volume of sugar added, it is still far too much for our bodies to process in a healthy manner.
Speaking on whether a similar measure could help cut obesity rates in the UAE, where 63% of men and 60% of women are clinically obese, he added: “I do not see this as a solution to the sugar problem. Sugar is responsible for the majority of the increases in non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer that we have seen over the past decades. Reducing the amount we consume, while certainly a step in the right direction, is a very small step.
“We need to see drastic reductions – as in almost removing added sugar entirely from our foods – if we are to look forward to real improvements to our health, which is what this is all about.”
A can of cola typically has nine teaspoons of sugar in it, and some popular drinks have as many as 13 teaspoons, which can be more than double a child’s recommended added sugar intake.
During his 2016 Budget statement, Osborne said: “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: ‘I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’. So today I can announce that we will introduce a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry.”
The sugar tax will be introduced in two years’ time to allow companies time to change their product contents