The government is under more pressure than ever before to introduce tobacco-style regulations on sugary food and drinks following the publication of a hard-hitting report by MPs.
The Health Select Committee report ‘Childhood Obesity Brave and Bold Action’ calls for a range of new measures including a tax of 20% on full sugar soft drinks, and a ban on merchandising all sugary food and drinks at the end of aisles and at till points.
The report also calls for mandatory controls to limit the volume of promotions on sugary, fatty and salty food and drinks in all retail outlets.
“Price promotions on foods in the UK have reached record levels - some 40% of the food UK consumers buy is now on promotion, double that of other European countries,” the report said.
“Public Health England has presented clear evidence that price promotions lead to customers buying more of particular types of products, and that promotions are skewed in favour of higher sugar foods and drinks,” it added.
A 20% tax on full sugar drinks should be implemented as soon as possible, the report added.
“A tax on full sugar soft drinks is a clearly defined policy recommendation that can be simply and swiftly implemented, drawing on the lessons that can be learnt from international experience,” it said.
Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, slammed the report: “This was part of the PR campaign by the health lobby to persuade ministers to introduce a tax on soft drinks.
“By its own admission the Health Select Committee is merely proposing this tax because it’s easy to do yet there is no evidence worldwide that such a tax has an effect on obesity.
“In fact evidence from one of the most comprehensive studies into tackling obesity, the McKinsey Global Institute 2014 report, found that a tax would be much less effective than reducing portion sizes and reformulating products.
“Our industry has led the way in both of these areas and has reduced calorie intake from soft drinks by 11% in just four years.”
The report was published just weeks before the government is expected to publish its Obesity Strategy and on the same day that MPs are due to debate the creation of a sugar tax in Parliament.
The debate, which is due to take place at 4.30pm this afternoon, follows a petition by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver which secured more than 151,600 signatures on the Downing Street website. Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.