Sugary drinks are targeted by Parliament and the NHS

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On 24 April Parliament approved the Finance Bill 2017 which incorporates legislation enabling the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April 2018.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign which has lobbied for a sugary drinks tax, welcomed the news and said: “This is a good day for parents, health professionals and indeed Parliament. A sugary drinks tax has been a hard fought victory for children’s health. But the next Government should be under no illusion about the scale of the challenge remaining. The battle-lines of opposition have already been drawn by the food and drinks industries and their well-funded front-groups to other similarly brave and bold measures – including restrictions on junk food marketing and promotions – that are needed to reduce childhood obesity and diet-related ill-health.”

In a further development, NHS England has announced that sugary drinks will be banned in hospital shops beginning in 2018 unless suppliers voluntarily take decisive action to cut their sales over the next 12 months.

Several leading retailers have already agreed to continue voluntarily reducing sales of sugary drinks to 10% or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals over the coming year. The leading suppliers who have pledged to cut sales are WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Greggs, the SUBWAY brand, Medirest, ISS and the Royal Voluntary Service.

The remaining suppliers to the health service are being urged to join them in order to ensure the NHS leads the way on tackling the devastating impact on public health of the country’s sweet tooth.

Responding on behalf of the Food and Drink Federation, Tim Rycroft, the Corporate Affairs Director, said: “There is no question that obesity levels in the UK are unacceptably high. Physical inactivity is a factor, but for many the problem overwhelmingly is with excess calories in the diet. With many of these calories coming from sugars, we have been supporting the Government as it develops its highly ambitious sugar reduction drive. We know our products have a special place in people’s lives and that we must keep our customers at the heart of this work. Responsible companies will work with Public Health England to lower sugars in recipes and, where that isn’t technically possible or acceptable to consumers, to lower portion sizes and encourage switching to lower-sugar alternatives.”

WM comment

It’s clear that the topic of the amount of sugar in food and drink is not going to go away any time soon. The industry has made a lot of progress to date and is going to have to continue working hard to reduce sugar levels in its products and providing healthy alternatives.