Nutritionists have applauded the Government’s decision to impose a sugar tax on soft drinks manufacturers, but have said more still needs to be done to tackle childhood obesity in the UK.
On Wednesday George Osborne revealed the new tax would kick in from 2018 and money raised from the levy would fund sports activities in primary schools.
The move comes after chef Jamie Oliver launched a campaign on the topic following his Channel 4 show ‘Jamie’s Sugar Rush’.
Currently one in every five children aged 10 to 11 in The UK is classified as obese.
Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed, from SR Nutrition, said she was surprised to hear the sugar tax announcement, but pleased.
“Although this tax is just a small part of a very large parcel, something is happening,” she told The Huffington Post UK.
“It shows me that the Government is really taking health and nutrition seriously. In 2016 we need less conversation and more action to improve our diets in the UK and this is certainly some action, however small.”
Stirling-Reed said she was happy to see a new policy focussing on fizzy drinks as they “don’t fill you up and make it very easy to consume a lot of calories and a lot of sugar in one go”.
However, she pointed out that sugary drinks aren’t the only thing having a detrimental impact on the nation’s health.
“We do need other changes to go along with a sugary drinks tax, such as alterations to price promotions and advertising, and reformulation of foods,” she said.
Nutritionist Jo Travers, from the Harley Street Nutritionist, agreed that a tax on sugar is “a great way of raising money for healthy school activities”.
However, she’s sceptical about whether the move will successfully reduce obesity figures.
“We need to work from all angles to tackle the problem, but it may help. We will have to wait and see,” she said.
“People need to have access to a healthy balanced diet through good town planning and good food formulation; be educated on making good choices through schools, the media, and manufacturers; and people need to take responsibility for their own health as well.”
She also warned there is no need to “demonise” sugar in light of the new tax.
“In moderation, there is little evidence it will do you much harm,” she said.
Meanwhile Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said the tax is a positive first step in improving the nation’s teeth, but also called for further action.
“While welcoming what is obviously a positive step in addressing the current children’s dental health crisis and ‘obesity epidemic’ we are facing in the UK, we feel that the measures outlined do not go far enough and more pressure needs to be put on manufacturers,” he said.
“By implementing the levy on manufactures and not the consumer, pressure is now on companies to change their products; we have to now make sure that they do just this and not continue with their current models and pass the cost onto the consumer through price raises.”
He added: “Tooth extraction is the single biggest reason for children being admitted to hospital for general anaesthetics in the UK and costs the NHS around £30 million per year, with the leading cause being tooth decay.
“In the last year alone more than 33,000 children were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions under general anaesthetic, this is incredibly shocking.”
For families concerned about the amount of sugar they’re consuming on a weekly basis, Stirling-Reed recommended consumers “check food labels” and “try to eat less in the way of processed foods”.
“Cook from scratch whenever possible and add in extra healthy options such as whole grains and vegetables, which can help to fill the gap in your diet that sugar previously filled,” she added.
“Most people know the basic healthy eating messages – more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less processed foods and opt for water as your main source of fluid.”