Monday, 7 December 2015

The Sugar Tax

A proposed levy of 10-20% on high sugar products has been rejected by David Cameron. This isn't the end of the matter though, some MPs are convinced that the only way to reduce sugar consumption is to tax it. The idea is not only unfair to those of us who consume sugar in moderation, but fails to tackle the real issue. People will not suddenly give up their sweet fixes because of a price increase. For one thing a 20% rise on a 70p bar is still only 14p. For another, they could just switch to a cheaper brand or be more tempted to take advantage of bulk buy discounts. However, the most compelling reason that it will fail is that sugar is addictive and people will be willing to pay that little bit more to get their fix.
If the stick is not the answer then what about the carrot? The positive steps which the food industry could take to encourage us all to eat better. We need to tackle the issues that make people choose the high-sugar options to really solve the problem. 
For example, a difficult thing about eating healthily is the cost. Go into any supermarket and a single bar of chocolate will be, roughly, 70p. Go to the fruit section and a pot of pre-prepared fruit will be at least £1.50. Now, of course, you could prepare fruit salad yourself but that takes time, it takes planning and it's expensive to buy all the fruit in bulk. Not to mention the short shelf-life of fruit so if you're a single person it can end up being a waste. That chocolate bar is suddenly very appealing. 
The obvious answer is therefore not taxation but an analysis of why people choose sugary foods and what we can do to encourage them to make better choices. A sugar-tax will fail because if the healthy option is still the less attractive option good auld sugar will win the day. 

Don't cod yourself, brown sugar is bad for you too