The Estonian parliament has approved introducing a special tax on sales of sugary drinks, including dairy products, causing concern within the Baltic state’s food and dairy industry. 

Taxable beverages mentioned in the law now include sweet drinkable yogurt, kefir (fermented milk drinks), as well as sweetened soy milk.

Eesti Toiduainetööstuse Liit, Estonia’s food industry association, along with Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have urged the country’s President Kersti Kaljulaid not to approve the legislation. They have combined with the Estonian Dairy Association  – Eesti Piimaliit – in opposing the law, arguing it would be both unconstitutional and ineffective. 

In addition, the Estonian food industry association has predicted the law would make Estonian products more expensive, with its president Sirje Potisepp saying: “Taxes on sweetened beverages from the parliament will not contribute to reducing obesity. There is simply no research that proves the impact on health outcomes.” 

Potisepp added the law would not force manufacturers to reduce sugar content, noting Estonian food manufacturers had already voluntarily reduced added sugars in products by about a quarter in the past 20 years.

If passed, the tax is set to come into effect on 1 January 2018, but manufacturers that declare they plan to reduce sugar content will give a two-year exemption to allow them to adjust their recipes and enable consumers to adapt to changes in taste.