Is the Government sugarcoating the fizzy drinks tax?

Due to the introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks from April this year, Coca-Cola has announced that it will cut the size of their 1.75L bottles to 1.5L and increase the price by 20p in March in preparation, but what do we know about the sugar tax ?

Some Coca-Cola products will contain 33% less sugar | Image Credit: Pixabayter


The classic Coca-Cola drink contains 10.6 grams of sugar per 100ml, this means under the government’s tax introduction, it will be taxed 24p per litre.

It has taken over a year for this tax to be regulated, as it was first announced by the then chancellor, George Osbourne, in March 2016, with the intention of tackling the growing number of obese children in the UK. Once the tax is introduced, soft drink producers will be taxed 18p per litre on drinks containing 5 grams of sugar or more per 100ml, or 24p per litre if the drink has more than 8 grams of sugar per 100ml. It has been projected that the tax will raise around £520 million a year which will be spent on funding sport in primary schools, although it seems there will be no additional funding for healthy eating policies and nutrition education.

Despite the food served in schools throughout Britain being obliged to meet healthy eating food standards so that children have healthy, balanced diets, a study published in 2016 found that only 1 in 5 lunchboxes for primary school children contained any vegetables. So, it appears improving sports in primary schools is a start, but it’s only half the battle. It’s clear, more focus should be on improving school policies and educating parents and their children in order to improve the overall health of children in Britain.

Luckily, soft drink manufactures responded to the announcement by altering their recipes. While the classic Coca-Cola drink recipe will be left unchanged other soft drinks, owned by Coca-Cola such as Fanta have reduced their sugar content by as much as 33%. Furthermore, Irn-Bru announced last year that it would cut its sugar content from about 10 grams per 100ml to slightly below 5 grams. This sparked anger among fans with the introduction of a petition to stop the alterations to the original recipe and even stockpiling of the drink before the drink changes. However, Irn-Bru responded to their fans on Twitter stating the changes made will not affect the flavour, as seen below:


Each Irn Bru can will still contain 4 teaspoons of sugar | Image Credit: Irn-Bru Twitter, @irnbru


So, will the new tax work?

To set an example in 2015, British TV chef, Jamie Oliver, increased the price of sugary drinks in his Italian restaurants by 10p. A study of the outcomes of the levy, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, discovered sales of sugar-sweetened drinks fell by 11% in the first 12 weeks. Six months after the introduction of this price rise, sales were 9.3% lower than they had been before the levy was introduced. Although, the customers who tend to dine at Jamie Oliver’s restaurants won’t be burdened by this increase, it may have prompted them to think twice before buying a sugary drink. These results are promising, triggering optimism regarding the introduction of the new sugar tax this year. However, some believe that a tax isn’t the right way to reduce calorie intake. It may reduce consumption concerning purchase, however, customers may find those calories elsewhere.

We won’t know how effective this new sugar tax will have in tackling obesity as well as other health issues such as diabetes, until at least 6 months after the introduction, however, it is clear in this country, obesity is a growing problem which must be solved. This tax is only the start of a long, uphill battle.

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