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UK sugar tax has ‘successfully driven reformulation and taken sugar out of children’s drinks’

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England’s outgoing Chief Medical Officer says the Soft Drinks Industry Levy has been successful in reducing sugar in children’s drinks: and is calling for the levy to be extended to milk-based drinks.

The Soft Drink Industry Levy (SDIL) came into effect in April last year, as a tax on beverages with more than 5g sugar per 100ml.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, who was the Chief Medical Officer for England up to September 2019, also calls for free water refills and water fountains to be available in public places and food and drink retail sites to help reduce childhood obesity.
Time to solve childhood obesity 
In the report aimed at politicians and policy makers, Professor Davies says the government is ‘nowhere near’ achieving its goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

In a typical class of 30 in the last year of primary school (children aged 10-11), six children are obese and a further four are overweight – twice as many as thirty years ago, according to the report. This is twice as many as thirty years ago.

Released this morning, the report ‘Time to Solve Childhood Obesity’ makes a number of wide-reaching recommendations: including banning eating on public transport, reviewing tax rates on food and drinks to favour healthier options, and encouraging physical activity.

In the beverage industry, Professor Davies recommends extending the soft drinks industry levy to sweetened milk based drinks with added sugar.
“The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) has successfully driven reformulation and taken sugar out of children’s drinks," she writes in the report.

"There is no evidence that it has had a negative impact on deprived groups.

"Increases in the price of soft drinks due to the levy have been minimal and have helped fund school sport and breakfast clubs.

"Children living in the most deprived areas are benefitting most, because of their higher rates of tooth decay.”

Professor Davies’ recommendation to extend the levy to milk-based drinks supports a UK government report – released in July just hours before Boris Johnson was announced as Prime Minister – which says it is considering extending the sugar tax to soft drinks.

Boris Johnson, however, had previously pledged a review of ‘nanny state sin taxes’.

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