Scotland moves a step closer to sugar tax

Scotland moves a step closer to sugar tax

Food Standards Scotland has backed "wide-ranging" proposals to curb obesity, opening up the possibility of a sugar tax in the country. 

FSS indicated it is looking at various options to tacke obesity, from a sugar tax to increased regulation around food and drink promotions, portion sizes and "tougher" targets on reformulation. These options will now be put to Scottish government ministers, the agency said.

Announcing proposals, FSS stressed the scale of the obesity crisis in Scotland. If obesity continues to rise at the current rate, it is projected that 40% of the Scottish population will be obese 15 years from now, the agency indicated. 

"There can be few in any doubt now as to the gravity of the health time-bomb related to poor diet and obesity facing our nation. The FSS board was clear that as the sole body with statutory responsibility for diet and nutrition its leadership role is vital in affecting the changes in the paper. We know that we have been missing the Scottish dietary goals for the past 15 years, despite the range of changes already made, so the board's view is that a raft of alternative, more radical, measures and interventions must be considered and introduced if we are to have the impact that is needed," Ross Finnie, chair of FSS, commented.
While Finnie said that regulators needed to work with industry to tackle obesity he also noted that a 10% sugar tax levied in Mexico resulted in a 12% reduction in sweetened soft drink purchases. 

FSS said that it accepted the suggestion for manufacturers and retailers to have 12 months to come up with "an alternative acceptable solution" to a sugar tax. However, Finnie added: "There should be no doubt that we are committed to improving dietary outcomes in Scotland, so if industry proposals fall short, we believe we should actively pursue other avenues, including taxation."

Scotland, via its devolved powers, is not alone in the UK in increasing pressure on the food sector to tackle obesity. Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hinted at the prospect of a sugar tax. Speaking at a news conference, Cameron said he did not want to put new taxes in place but said: "We do have to recognise that we face in Britain somewhat of an obesity crisis." 

A Downing Street spokesperson clarified: "More needs to be done to address this challenge and that's not just for government to do. It does include the industry doing more to develop alternatives to products that are high in sugar. This is a growing problem. Work is ongoing on a government strategy and we will publish it shortly."