The UK needs a new tax on salt and sugar to win the battle against obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, an activist group has claimed.
The measure would avert 2 million preventable cases of these diseases over the next 25 years, according to a coalition of health agencies.
It would also reduce the number of obese Britons by a tenth and raise £3bn a year, which should fund healthy eating programmes, Recipe for Change said.
The charities behind the group say a new food tax regime is needed to help Britons lose weight “in a food environment that is rigged against them.”
Britain needs a new tax on salt and sugar in food to win the battle against obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, a campaign group of charities says.
This graph shows the percentage of people in England who are overweight (pink), obese (red) and morbidly obese (deep red).
Recipe for Change, a coalition of health charities backed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal Society for Public Health, made the call in a report.
They hope to pressure the government to go further in the fight against obesity, a problem that costs the NHS an estimated £6.5 billion each year.
In its report, the coalition suggests two options for taxes on salt and sugar.
One of these is a flat charge of £3 per kg of sugar and £6 kg of salt on food, with an exception for pure versions of these ingredients to avoid taxing home cooks.
These measures were proposed by former government food adviser and co-founder of the León restaurant chain, Henry Dimbleby, to help combat Britain’s obesity crisis.
But he resigned from his role in March this year, citing a lack of appetite within the Government for the necessary changes.
The other option would only apply a tax to specific non-staple foods such as sweets, cakes, chips and snacks.
To back up their call, Recipe for Change commissioned the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to model the impact of a tax on sugar and salt across the industry.
It shows that a tax would reduce the amount of salt and sugar the average Briton consumes per day by 0.9g and 15g respectively.
Such reductions would help prevent 2 million cases of preventable diseases caused by high salt or sugar intake over the next 25 years.
This includes 1 million cases of cardiovascular diseases, 571,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and 11,000 cases of cancer, as well as 249,000 cases of respiratory diseases.
The modeling also suggests that a tax on sugar and salt would reduce the number of overweight and obese Britons by up to 10.9 per cent.
The average British adult consumes around 8.6g of salt a day, while women consume 44g of sugar and men 55g.
By keeping people healthier (and able to work) for longer, the changes would add £77.9bn to the economy over the same period, the report states.
NHS recommendations state that Britons should consume 6g of salt and 30g of sugar a day.
Recipe for Change modeled its proposed tax on the success of the soft drinks tax, introduced in 2018, which led manufacturers to reformulate their recipes and reduce overall sugar levels in their drinks by 34.3 per cent.
Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, one of the collaborative’s lead members, said the case for government action was clear.
This graph shows the impact of the sugar tax on soft drinks on the total amount of sugar sold (yellow line) and the impact on soft drink sales (red line). Recipe for Change argues that this shows that such measures work and do not actually harm the industry itself.
“Hundreds of policies to address obesity have failed because they have depended on individuals having to change their behavior in a food environment that is rigged against them,” he said.
“The food we buy is full of sugar and most of our food comes already salted; we need to put healthier food on shelves by introducing a tax on the industry to encourage them to change their recipes.”
Previous research has suggested that a tax on salt and sugar could raise up to £3bn a year.
Recipe for Change said profits from the tax should go back into programs that promote healthy eating, particularly among children.
A survey by the Obesity Health Alliance suggests that 68 percent of the public supports such a strategy if the revenue were invested in children’s health.
Recipe for Change argued that a tax is needed, as voluntarily asking food manufacturers to reduce sugar and salt has had no impact.
He pointed to Government analysis which showed this approach had only reduced salt and sugar levels by 3.4 per cent compared to a target of 20 per cent.
Barbara Crowther, director of the baby feeding campaign at Sustain, another member of the coalition, said ministers should build on the success of the soft drinks tax.
“Recipe for Change calls on the government to take advantage of what works and make it less profitable for companies to make and sell unhealthy products and incentivize better business with healthier foods,” he said.
“We need to invest in children’s health more than ever right now, and this could also be a great way to raise revenue from a junk food industry that is making huge profits at the expense of our health.”
Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: ‘We have already taken steps to reduce the amount of sugar and salt in foods, particularly those intended for children.
‘Our soft drink industry tax has almost halved the amount of sugar in soft drinks, while the sugar reduction program has significantly reduced the amount of sugar in foods popular with children, including cereals for children. breakfast and yogurts.
‘Thanks to our salt reduction programme, the amount of salt in food has decreased by around 20 per cent, helping to prevent almost 70,000 heart attacks and strokes and at the same time reducing pressure on the National Health Service.
“We are also taking strong action to tackle obesity, which costs the NHS around £6.5 billion a year, including by restricting the placement of less healthy foods in shops and online and introducing calorie labels on menus.” .
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a “world-leading” anti-obesity plan in 2020, inspired in part by how his own weight had put him at greater risk of becoming seriously ill when he contracted Covid.
However, his Government avoided the most radical proposals put forward by the then food tsar, Mr Dimbleby, such as taxes on salt and sugar, after it was estimated that the proposals could add £60 to the annual bill. food for each person.
The proposals that survived – a ban on buy one get one free advertising for unhealthy snacks and junk food before 9pm – have been delayed by current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
An estimated 64 per cent of British adults are now overweight and rates are expected to rise further in the future.
Eating too much sugar can contribute to weight gain, and obesity itself is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as some types of cancer.
Excessive salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure, putting organs such as the heart under additional stress and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS.
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Base meals are based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole wheat bread, and one large baked potato with skin.
• Eat some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) by choosing low-fat, low-sugar options.
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish each week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small amounts
• Drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should consume less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day.
Fountain: NHS Eatwell Guide