The Conservative Government plan to introduce a new sugar levy on soft drinks to reduce the alarming levels of childhood obesity in the UK, it was announced in the budget today.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne placed children’s health as a top priority for Britain, emphasizing that
you cannot have a long-term plan for our country unless you have a long-term plan for our children’s childcare.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in the UK, with experts predicting figures to skyrocket to a staggering 50% of boys and 70% of girls becoming overweight within a generation. The Chancellor was quick to remind the House of Commons the costs of obesity:
It increases the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease – and it costs our economy £27 billion a year; that’s more than half the entire NHS pay bill. 5-year old children in the UK are consuming their body weight in sugar every year, George Osborne reports.
The Chancellor recognized that many companies in the soft drinks industry have addressed the link between the obesity figures and consumption of their products, and have undergone reformulation to include more low-sugar or sugar-free versions of their popular beverages.
However, the introduction of a sugar levy on the soft drinks industry is being treated as a crucial and ‘perfectly reasonable step’ to address the obesity epidemic. However, this is only the first step in what the Conservatives are treating as a long-term plan.
Nelly Ligier-Bennett regularly provides educational workshops for Local Authorities and Schools throughout the UK, and is passionate about developing better eating habits in children and young people.
Babyem's Food & Nutrition Course leader Nelly Ligier-Bennett commends the government on an ‘interesting start' to the strategy, but questions the effectiveness of its introduction on sugar drinks consumption:
If this is their action, I think it should be extended to a lot more products such as chocolate bars and cakes. People need to be re-educated. I would revert this tax onto paying less for healthy organic foods.
The levy is expected to bring in £250 million, which The Chancellor has allocated to doubling the spending dedicated to funding sport in every primary school.
The Chancellor ended his section of the budget focusing on Britain’s children with the following statement:
A determination to improve the health of our children. A new levy on excessive sugar in soft drinks. The money used to double sport in our schools. A Britain fit for the future. We’re not afraid to put the next generation first.
TV Chef Personality Jamie Oliver who has continuously campaigned for a sugar tax on soft drinks was elated at the news, but is already looking forward to the next hurdle: Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for a sugar tax since early last year
I never thought we had a government that was big enough and brave enough to take on these businesses. This is a big moment in child health. It's a big signal. I am over the moon! – now I expect a lot from the obesity strategy.