UK Government Publishes Draft Legislation for Sugar Tax, Effective from 2018

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06 Dec 2016 --- The UK government yesterday published the draft legislation for sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which is set to begin from April 2018. The highly anticipated soft drinks levy noted that there will be two bands – one band for soft drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml and the other for drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml. 

Pure fruit juices will be exempt from the sugar tax but health officials insist people should not consume more than 150ml of pure fruit juice per day. Milkshakes and yogurt drinks will also be excluded from being taxed.

Many UK drinks companies have already begun cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks in a bid to tackle the nation's obesity problem.

The government has said it expects the levy to raise £520m (USD663.5 million) in the first year. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the levy could add 18p to 24p to the price of a liter of a soft drink if the full cost is passed. This amounts to an extra 6p on a regular can of Fanta and Sprite, and an extra 8p on a regular can of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Irn-Bru.

The legislation has been backed by a number of health officials. Dr Max Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We are very pleased to see government moving forward with this draft legislation. 

“The sugary drinks that will be affected by this tax have no nutritional benefit and often contain levels of sugar that are above a child's daily recommended limit. These drinks are a major contributor to the high sugar intakes of children, particularly teenagers, and we are in no doubt that they are, in part, contributing to this country's obesity crisis,” Davie explained. 

A statement from Diabetes UK read: “We hope this levy will motivate manufacturers to reduce sugar content in soft drinks. Too much sugar in the food we buy is contributing to the obesity epidemic and, in turn, significantly increasing the risk of even more people developing Type 2 diabetes.”

“We're also asking manufacturers to be clear about changes to a product's carbohydrate or sugar content. Having the latest nutritional information is vital as some soft drinks are commonly used to treat hypos. In the meantime, do regularly check the nutritional information {link to “how to read food labels” guide} on sugar rich products so you know how much you need to consume to treat a hypo.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, commented: “We support the Soft Drinks Industry Levy as an important measure to help curb sugar intake which is contributing to the obesity epidemic and in turn, significantly increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

“We're also aware many people with diabetes use some soft drinks affected by the Levy to treat hypos, so we're working closely with the Government and manufacturers to ensure they have the most up to date nutritional information and are aware of the various hypo treatment choices available.”

On top of supporting the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, Diabetes UK are also engaging with Public Health England's sugar reduction program for food manufacturers. These are just a few range of measures to help reduce obesity and the risks of developing Type 2 diabetes which have devastating consequences on millions of lives across the country.

Cancer Research UK estimates a 20% tax on sugary drinks could prevent 3.7 million cases of obesity over the next decade - something the soft drinks industry rejects.

Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “There is no evidence worldwide that taxes of this sort reduce obesity, and it is ironic that soft drinks are being singled out for tax when we've led the way in reducing sugar intake, down over 17% since 2012.”

“We're also the only category to have set a 20% calorie reduction target for 2020.”

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