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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Threat of sugar tax spurs soft drinks companies to action

As a long standing supporter of a tax on sugary drinks, I was pleased to read today that food and drink manufacturers such as Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s are promising to cut the sugar content in their products in advance of a Government decision on levying such a tax.

The Telegraph reports that key players in the processed food industry say they will introduce a series of "unprecedented" series of measures of their own volition, which they claim will help reduce Britain’s sugar consumption by a fifth:

The measures include promises to avoid targeting the under-16s, as well as introducing smaller, healthier products.

However it is thought sugar levels in Coke - with its slogan 'It's the real thing' - will remain the same.

The moves come just days before David Cameron decides whether to press ahead with plans for a controversial sugar tax to help tackle what health experts have described as a time bomb of childhood obesity.

It has been estimated a 20 per cent sugar tax could raise up to a £1bn a year.

Kellogg's says it will cut 723 tons of sugar next year from all its cereals, such as Frosties and Coco Pops, by 2016 — although it would not specify any proportions.

Levels in Frosties and Coco Pops are about 35 per cent and it is thought they will aim to get them below 20 per cent.

The makers of Lucozade and Ribena are aiming to cut sugar by ten per cent by 2018, and 20 per cent by 2025 or sooner. Irn-Bru's maker AG Barr wants to cut its calorie content by five per cent this year alone.

Other soft drink giants such as Pepsi and Britvic will also ban TV adverts aimed at children and billboards near schools will also be scrapped.

Smaller sizes and new healthier products are also being promised.

This is all very promising but is it enough and how can the government persuade companies such as Coca Cola to play along?

The paper says that although that company is part of an industry-wide pledge to cut sugar consumption by 20 per cent before 2020 it is reluctant to go much further than the 5% cut in the calories in its drinks in 2014, promising only another five per cent drop over the next nine years.

Significantly, they say that the seven teaspoons of sugar currently in Coca Cola’s best selling red 330ml Coke can will stay the same. The Government still need to act and introduce this tax.
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