Before one begins, one must explain that sugax = sugar tax. I have made this up, it is not a recognised term, yet.
Last week the news was filled with headlines about the Government possibly introducing a sugar tax on foods and drinks which are high in ‘free sugars’ sold in the UK. This could mean that the bottle of coca-cola may reach that £2 milestone duh-duh-duhhh!! Hypothesis is, that this will reduce the amount of high sugar products we buy and consume and in turn reduce obesity, dental caries, diabetes etc etc.
As with all news headlines, this is probably all you have heard if you have come across such stories, however, there is more to the picture… One aims to give you that bigger picture!
The news story comes from a 48 page review by Public Health England called “Sugar reduction: the evidence for action”, if you feel compelled to read the document, you are able to do so by clicking the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/470179/Sugar_reduction_The_evidence_for_action.pdf”
So, the bigger picture:
Most importantly to point out is that the paper does not just consider sugar tax as a solution to the problem. In fact, this makes up only a small portion of the report. What, however, was considered a greater solution to reducing the sugar of our diets is a crack-down on the “Snickers: get some nuts” type advertising and those bought-it-before-you-know-it price promotions in the candy land supermarket isle.
There is a wealth of evidence to support such strategies, I’ve noted a few key points from the report which one may find of interest…
- Treating obesity and related health problems costs the NHS £5.1 billion a year
- “No single action will be effective in reducing sugar intakes”
- Any significant progress to reduce sugar intakes would yield benefits.
- Almost half of 8 year olds had tooth decay in their milk teeth in 2013
- An issue of social deprivation – those in lower socioeconomic groups are twice as likely to be obese or overweight
- In 2014 the UK food industry spent £256 million promoting unhealthy foods
Nearly 1 in 4 people who buy sharing bags of confectionary eat them alone in one sitting
- Expenditure on price promotions in the UK is the highest in Europe at 40% of our overall shopping (20% in other European countries such as Spain, France, Germany)
- Promotions also increase the overall amount we buy by 20% – foods and drinks that we would not normally buy if the promotion wasn’t there
- 7% of the sugar bought into the home is a result of the promotions to increase buying quantity eg, 2 for £3
- We are constantly nudged towards buying and eating more food – retail outlets, cafes, vending machines etc.
- Following the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks of 10% in Mexico, an overall average 6% reduction in purchases of sugar sweetened drinks was seen in 2014.
- A study showed a 35% tax on regular soft drinks (no tax on diet drinks or water) in a hospital cafeteria resulted in a reduction in sales of regular soft drinks by 26%.
I don’t know about you but this evidence is giving me the ‘nudge’ to get the placards up with “sugax to fill our health cracks” and “get sugar off our TV forever” and “sugar promotion is a toxic potion” – maybe a little extreme but you get my drift!!
So, my conclusion of the report is – the headline has grabbed the possible introduction of a tax on foods and drinks high in sugar to try and reduce the amount bought and to help our nation’s health. The evidence shows that this might help but so will reducing the amount of advertising in the media of such products, as well as, reducing the promotions that encourage a larger quantity of products bought. From an expert point of view, I am in favour of all proposed tactics.
I must add at this point, however, that I’m not part of the ‘hate sugar’ camp which is banded around at present. I advocate having cakes and biscuits etc as part of a healthy, balanced diet and encourage the notion of seeing these foods as ‘occasional foods’ rather than ‘bad foods’. I do, however, take issue with the food industry who purposefully encourage higher purchases of such foods rather than nutrient rich fruit and veg, for example.
I’m pre-empting some of you wanting to know about the sugar in fruit as some say “don’t eat too much fruit as it’s got sooo much sugar in it”. Unpicking this will be for another blog but for now – fruit is a healthy option… Stay tuned for a fuller answer!
For now – I hope this has helped you to see how much the food industry influences your purchasing. Next time you’re in the ‘candy land’ isle don’t be drawn in by the “3 for 2” offers alike. Instead, think ‘do I need 3?’ ‘how much money will I actually save?’ and ‘is my priority my long-term health or is it the 50p I’m saving in the immediate short-term?’
Healthy lives are fruitful lives