Last week, the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a new sugar tax as part of his Spring Budget. Manufacturers will be taxed on foodstuffs containing added sugar and this money will purportedly go towards helping to fund sports facilities and activities in schools.
At first glance, this may look like a welcome move, and certainly high profile campaigners like Jamie Oliver have been celebrating, but maybe it is a little misguided. I think more emphasis should be put on getting us out of our sedentary lifestyles. If we burnt off more calories the sugar wouldn’t be so detrimental in the first place.
My concern is that consumers will be penalized because companies will simply put prices up to pay for the tax. People won’t stop buying sugary products or processed foods (that often contain added sugar). For some people, sugar may become even more desirable because it is deemed ‘naughty’. The danger also is that more companies will get around using sugar by creating synthetic (and possibly harmful) alternatives, as well as more type of sweeteners and sugar substitutes. It is well documented that the latter can actually cause weight gain and lead to disease.
And what about ethical, responsible companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, who produce well-loved ice creams and treats? There isn’t enough Stevia to go around and according to some research Stevia can also be harmful to the body. There is also a slight irony in the fact that some of the UK’s best-loved health zeitgeists on Instagram are famous for their sweet treats and “sweet-food porn”. The undeniable fact is that we like sugar. The success of these foodies just proves it!
Whilst this tax is honourable in principle, and on face value, when you dig a little deeper, it looks like a clever way of making the consumer pay more for the things they like whilst not actively encouraging them to change their lifestyles.