61 organisations call for a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013

A new Sustain report proposes that a sugary drinks duty raises money for a 'Children's Future Fund' to spend on programmes to improve children's health and wellbeing.






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Already, more than 60 organisations are backing the recommendations in a major new report launched today which calls for Budget 2013 to implement a sugary drinks duty.  The report, ‘A Children’s Future Fund – How food duties could provide the money to protect children’s health and the world they grow up in’ [1] is published by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming [2]. 

It proposes that the money raised from a duty on sugary drinks [3] should be ring-fenced for a ‘Children’s Future Fund’ to spend on programmes to improve children’s health and future well-being.

Pointing to the high levels of diet-related illness [4] which is costing the NHS £6 billion every year [5], the report makes three recommendations for Budget 2013 [6] to:

  • Introduce a sugary drinks duty for the UK which, for example at 20p per litre, would raise around £1 billion a year [7];
  • Ring-fence the majority of money raised from a sugary drinks duty for a Children’s Future Fund, which could be spent on improving children’s health by, for example, providing free school meals, or sustainably produced fruit and vegetable snacks in schools; and
  • Give an independent body the responsibility to oversee how the sugary drinks duty is implemented and make sure the revenue is spent effectively.

The report also recommends, in the longer-term, that our VAT system is revised to reflect the healthiness of food and drinks and that unsustainable foods also carry a levy [8].

Supporting organisations include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association for the Study of Obesity, Friends of the Earth, the National Heart Forum and the Royal Society for Public Health [9].

Charlie Powell, Campaign’s Director for Sustain, said:

“Sugar-laden drinks are mini-health timebombs, contributing to dental diseases, obesity and a host of life-threatening illnesses which cost the NHS billions each year.  We are delighted that so many organisations want to challenge the Government to show it has a public health backbone by including a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013.  It’s a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much needed money to protect children’s health.”

Mike Rayner of the Department of Public Health at Oxford University and Chair of Sustain also commented:

“Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.  This modest proposal goes some way towards making the price of food reflect its true costs to society.  Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life threatening diseases and misery for millions of people.  It is high time government did something effective about this problem.”

- Ends -

For more information and interviews, please contact:
Charlie Powell on 020 7065 0902 or 07817 746786, or at charlie@sustainweb.org.
Jeanette Longfield on 020 7065 0902 or 020 8566 1761 or at jeanette@sustainweb.org


Notes to editors:

1. Sustain’s report ‘A Children’s Future Fund – How food duties could provide the money to protect children’s health and the world they grow up in’ [47 pages, 309 references] will be available to download from: http://www.sustainweb.org/publications/info/263 from Tuesday 29th January.  Embargoed advanced copies are available: please contact Charlie Powell on the above office/mobile number or by email.

Advanced copies of the report were sent to the offices of Public Health Minister Anna Soubry and Shadow Public Health Minister Diane Abbott on Thursday 24th January.

2. Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming works with its members to advocate food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.  It represents around 90 national public interest organisations working at international, national and regional and local level.  For more information, visit: www.sustainweb.org  

3. The report defines sugary drinks as "any non-alcoholic beverage with added sugar which is consumed cold".  Sugary drinks are the easiest category for which to argue for duties because of (1) the research linking them to obesity and dental decay (2) the fact that they usually offer absolutely no nutritional benefits other than calories (energy) and (3) there are successful precedents for applying duties on them in other countries – for example, Finland, France, Hungary and some states in the USA (see p21 of the report for a full list).

4. In the UK, one in four adults is classified as obese and one in three children is already obese or overweight before they finish primary school, more than in any other country in Europe, see: ‘Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, 2012’: http://tinyurl.com/amecrvv

Sugary drink consumption is linked to weight gain and a host of obesity-related diseases including type II diabetes, coronary heart disease and some cancers.  Sugary drinks contain ‘empty calories’ – a 330ml of sugary drink typically provides 35g, or 9 lumps of sugar, but no other nutritional value.  Because liquid calories do not make us feel full, we do not compensate by eating fewer calories from solid food. 

In addition, eating and drinking sugary products is the biggest cause of dental caries in the UK.  There is considerable evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to dental caries, which can cause immense pain and suffering and cost millions to treat.

5. See: Mike Rayner & Peter Scarborough, “The Burden of Food Related Ill Health in the UK”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59, no.12 (December 1, 2005): 1054-1057; reported in: Poor diet 'costs NHS £6bn a year', BBC News, www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4436232.stm

6. The recommendations (p.39) for Budget 2013, due to be presented by Chancellor George Osborne on 20 March 2013, are that it should:

  • Incorporate a sugary drinks duty for the UK, which for example, at 20p per litre would raise around £1 billion a year based on the rates of consumption at time of writing [see note 7 below].
  • Ring-fence the majority of money raised from a sugary drinks duty for a Children’s Future Fund to spend on programmes to improve children’s health and protect the environment they will grow up in.  This could include: providing free and high quality school meals; improving food education and skills – such as cooking and growing – in schools; offering free and sustainably produced fruit and vegetable snacks in schools; and installing fresh drinking water fountains in schools.
  • Give an independent body the responsibility to oversee the implementation of the sugary drinks duty.  This body would be responsible for the much needed task of rigorously monitoring and evaluating the effects of the sugary drinks duty, analyses which are lacking from countries where similar duties have been introduced. This independent body could also assess how to get the most benefit for children’s future health and well-being from how the Children’s Future Fund is spent.

7. According to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), soft drink consumption in the UK reached 14,685 million litres in 2011. The BSDA also report that sugary drinks make up 39% of all soft drink consumption, equivalent to 5,727 million litres in 2011 (See: BSDA, 2012 UK Soft Drinks Report: http://tinyurl.com/6o4xaao).  A duty rate of 2p per 100ml, or 20p per litre, on soft drinks with added sugar could therefore potentially raise around £1billion a year (5,727 million litres x £0.20 = £1,145,400,000).

8. The longer-term recommendations (p.39) are:

  • Revising our VAT system so that, instead of being riddled with bizarre anomalies, it is linked to the healthiness of foods through a nutrient profiling system [for example, fruit juice is currently standard rated whilst chocolate chip cookies are zero rated].
  • Developing food duties on unsustainable food, determined by a food sustainability index.  This would take into account an agreed set of criteria such as environmentally friendly farming, high animal welfare, ethical trading, low greenhouse gas emissions, water stewardship, and reducing waste, alongside healthy nutrition.  These duties could generate funding to pay for much-needed remedial and protective policies to make our food system fit and fair for our children and future generations. 

9. At time of writing, the list of organisations supporting the publication of the report and its recommendations (see p.39 of the report) is:

1. Academy of Culinary Arts Chefs Adopt a School Trust
2. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
3. Association for the Study of Obesity
4. Association of Teachers and Lecturers
5. Aynsley-Green Consulting (Former Children's Commissioner for England)
6. Baby Milk Action
7. British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry
8. British Dental Health Foundation
9. British Dietetic Association
10. British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy
11. Campaign for Real Farming
12. Caroline Walker Trust
13. Centre for Food Policy, City University
14. Community Composting Network
15. Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association
16. Compassion in World Farming
17. Consensus Action on Salt and Health
18. European Public Health Alliance
19. Family Farmers' Association
20. Farms for City Children
21. Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
22. First Steps Nutrition Trust
23. Food and Behaviour Research
24. Food Ethics Council
25. Food for Life Partnership
26. Food Matters
27. Friends of the Earth
28. Garden Organic
29. Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome Help
30. Health Education Trust
31. Heart of Mersey
32. Institute of Health Visiting
33. Linking Environment and Farming
34. National Children's Bureau
35. National Day Nurseries Association
36. National Federation of Women's Institutes
37. National Heart Forum
38. Netmums
39. New Economics Foundation
40. Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
41. Organic Research Centre
42. Permaculture Association
43. Pesticide Action Network UK
44. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
45. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
46. Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
47. Royal Society for Public Health
48. Scottish Cancer Prevention Network
49. School Food Matters
50. Soil Association
51. tfX: the campaign against trans fats in food
52. Trading Standards Institute
53. UK Faculty of Public Health
54. UK Society for Behavioural Medicine (Executive Committee)
56. Waste Watch
57. Weight Concern
58. Woodcraft Folk
59. World Cancer Research Fund
60. World Public Health Nutrition Association
61. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

Supporting organisations have confirmed that their view that the report and its recommendations will make a valuable contribution to the process of improving children’s health and well-being both now and in the future.  Each has indicated its agreement only in those areas where it has specific competence.




Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.