Risk & Economy » Tax » MPs reconsider sugar tax to combat obesity crisis

MINISTERS are considering imposing a tax on sugary drinks, it has been reported, after a government document revealed how a levy could reduce childhood obesity numbers.

A government source told a national newspaper how its recent ‘strategy into childhood obesity’ report has caused ministers to rethink its stance on the sugar tax.

The report, which is due to be published next month, also advises Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to clamp down on junk food promotions.

“We want to learn the lessons from examples such as the sugary drinks tax in Mexico,” a Whitehall source told The Times.

“This does not mean a tax on sugar – your back of Tate & Lyle isn’t about to become more expensive. And there are still lots of arguments against. But we have not ruled anything out and no decisions have been made,” added the source.

The government has been under increasing pressure to impose a sugar tax. In July sister title Accountancy Age reported that the British Medical Association had recommended a 20% tax on soft drinks, claiming that it would reduce the risk of obesity in the UK by 180,000 people.

In September Holyrood’s finance committee was told that a tax on sugary products should be used to fund a 2p cut in income tax in Scotland, while Jamie Oliver told Parliament that they must be “brave” and introduce a 20% sugar levy as part of their plans to cut down on childhood obesity.

According to consultancy firm McKinsey and Company, obesity is costing the UK approximately £6bn a year, with diseases such as diabetes costing the taxpayer £10bn a year. This week charity Diabetes UK revealed that over four million people have been diagnosed with the illness.