Controversial 'sugar tax' report is finally published

"A sugar tax of up to 20 per cent is need[ed] on fizzy drinks and fattening snacks," the Daily Mail reports. It is one of eight recommendations from Public Health England designed to tackle the UK's love affair with the sweet stuff…

"A sugar tax of up to 20 per cent is need[ed] on fizzy drinks and fattening snacks," the Daily Mail reports. 

It is one of eight recommendations from Public Health England designed to tackle the UK's love affair with the sweet stuff that is linked to obesity and diabetes.

Public Health England (PHE), the agency in charge of the nation's health, has outlined evidence that we're eating far too much sugar as a country and it is making us fat and ill. PHE's report suggests what it feels are the most effective ways to reduce consumption.

PHE says its eight suggestions will help the nation achieve a new lower recommended daily intake of sugar (5% of total energy, recently down from 10%), save lives from weight-related diseases, cut tooth decay, and save the NHS £576 million a year.

This fits with a previous report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) that recommended no more than 5% of our calorie intake should come from "free sugars".

Among the eight main suggestions is a tax on sugar of around 10-15%, a reduction in price promotions at supermarkets (such as buy one get one free offers) and a reduction in the marketing and advertising of high-sugar food and drink to kids. Sugary drinks come under particular fire for boosting sugar consumption without adding any nutritional value, particularly in kids and teenagers, who drink them the most.

The report, titled Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action (PDF, 1.16Mb), clearly says: "no single action will be effective in reducing sugar intakes". This point was soon lost in the heated media and political debate that followed the report's publication.

That withstanding, the report gives the nation food for thought on what measures it is willing to accept to become healthier.

The good news is that you don't have to wait for the government to act to improve your health; read more about the hidden sugars in ordinary foods and how to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.   

What are the recommended levels for sugar intake?

The report recommends that:

  • children aged 4-6 years should eat no more than 19 grams of sugar a day (5 cubes or 4-5 teaspoons)
  • children aged 7-10 years should eat no more than 24 grams of sugar a day (6 cubes or 5-6 teaspoons)
  • children and adults aged 11 years or over should eat no more than 30 grams of sugar a day (7 cubes or 6-7 teaspoons)

What did the media and independent experts say?

BBC News lead with: "Sugar tax and offers ban 'would work'," while the Guardian took a more political angle saying: "David Cameron faces pressure to back sugar tax", adding "Prime minister urged to consider levy after official report on childhood obesity – controversially delayed for months – is finally published".

The Mail Online reported the: "Shocking toll of Britain's sugar addiction: If intake was cut to recommended levels it would save 77,000 lives and prevent 6 million rotten teeth". It added that "David Cameron did not read the report before dismissing [the] idea of a sugar tax".

The political angles relate to reports that the government is opposed to a sugar tax and (unproven) allegations that the report’s publication was delayed as a result.

Independent diet and nutrition experts quoted on Science Media Centre generally welcomed the suggestions in the report. This included the suggestion of a sugar tax as part of other widespread measures, and particularly suggestions for how to help children consume less sugar and be healthier.

Some were also quick to caution against a "war on sugar" and focusing too narrowly on sugar as an approach to tackling obesity.

Professor Vaeed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said: "to tackle obesity we must do much, much more [than just reduce sugar intake]. In fact, plentiful evidence still points towards excess fat as a major contributor to excess calories (more so than sugar) so we cannot become distracted by this 'sugar battle'. Equally, ready access to cheap calorific foods is pervasive and tackling such issues will be difficult. These are difficult issues. Cutting excess calories requires a broader approach and will take many years, but we do have to start somewhere, and ultimately the government needs to take the lead."


Fenny Compton - The High Street, Fenny Compton, Southam, Warwickshire, CV47 2YG
Shenington - The Surgery, Stocking Lane, Shenington, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 6NF
Supplied by Marika Solutions Site powered by GP Fusion
Back to top