Sugar tax “will not tackle obesity”

Two separate reports highlight the relative ineffectiveness of sugar/soft drinks taxes according to the Irish Beverage Council, the IBEC group that represents soft drinks companies.

A University of Oxford report – commissioned by the Department of Health – found that a sugar tax would reduce obesity in Ireland by only 0.3%.

“This clearly shows that pursuing a sugar sweetened drink tax on public health grounds is a way of looking tough on obesity without actually tackling obesity,” commented IBC Director Colm Jordan, “Digging down into the University of Oxford report, the figures show a reduction of 0.67% in the population who’re overweight and obese and a reduction in only 1.25% of the population who’re obese. The rationale of introducing a measure that doesn’t work 99% of the time must seriously be questioned.

“A separate McKinsey Global Institute analysis showed product portion size and reformulation were the top two most effective interventions against obesity. The same report found taxation to be the 13th most-effective approach out of 16.

“It’s clear from these two reports and other evidence gathered from international health experts (NCD-RisC) that increasing the cost of beverages for the consumer does not work. It has been tried before and it has failed before. In fact in four countries where sugar-sweetened drink taxes were introduced (Mexico, France, Denmark, Hungary) obesity actually increased.

“The over-simplistic idea that taxing soft drinks impacts consumption ignores the hard evidence. If demand was based on price ‘own brand’ soft drinks would be market leaders – they’re not. Taste is a more significant factor in consumer choice than price.”

Instead, the IBC has highlighted the benefits achieved by soft drinks companies reducing the sugar content of their products through reformulation.

“Reformulation rather than price hikes will have a greater impact on consumer behaviour and calorie intake with no increase in the cost to our weekly shop,” he continued, “Food Drink Ireland data, verified by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, shows that our members have already removed 10 billion calories from the national diet from 2005 to 2012 by reformulating to reduce sugar content. Since 2012 the number of new ‘no sugar’ products brought to market has increased. In fact, just 3% of our calorific intake comes from sugar sweetened drinks.

“As an industry we recognise the growing societal multi-factorial challenge of obesity and are fully committed to playing our part,” he concluded, ”We’re continuing to work with Government to deliver real and effective solutions to yield real public health benefits.”




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