Drinks companies were also angered by the plan which urges industry
to cut sugar in products aimed at children, saying nearly a third of
those aged 2 to 15 are already overweight or obese.
In a statement announcing details of the strategy, which has been in
the works for several years?, junior minister (no portfolio?) Jane
Ellison obesity was costing Britain's National Health Service (NHS)
billions of pounds every year.
Campaigners and health experts, however, said the plan was weak.
Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and
chairman of the Action on Sugar campaign group, said it was "an
insulting response" to Britain's obesity and diabetes crisis which
"will bankrupt the NHS unless something radical is done".
In opting for a sugar tax, Britain joins Belgium, France, Hungary
and Mexico, all of which have imposed some form of tax on drinks
with added sugar. Scandinavian countries have levied similar taxes
for many years.
Britain's plans will see a levy applied to drinks with a total sugar
content above 5 grams per 100 ml, with a higher band for even more
The government's health department says sugary drinks are the single
biggest source of sugar for children, and a child can have more than
their recommended daily intake just by drinking a can of cola which
contains nine teaspoons of sugar.
It wants the industry to work towards a 20 percent cut in products
popular with children, with 5 percent in the first year. Progress
would be reviewed every six months by the government's health
agency, Public Health England.
[to top of second column]
But Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks
Association, said the levy was a "punitive tax" that would "cause
thousands of job losses and yet fail to have a meaningful impact on
levels of obesity".
Sara Petersson, a nutrition analyst at Euromonitor International,
said the focus on sugar may detract from other crucial factors in
"It is becoming abundantly clear that replacing a critical
ingredient of a product, or single nutrient in a diet, is neither an
easy process for food companies nor a successful obesity strategy,"
The program the government intends to launch with funds raised from
the sugar levy will focus on promoting healthy diets and physical
activity in schoolchildren, Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood
She said primary schools would be asked to help pupils get at least
60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. At least 30
minutes of this should be during school time, she said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by James Dalgleish and Raissa
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