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Campaigners demand a sugar tax on ALL foods as report reveals the levy on drinks led to a 30% drop

Campaigners demand a sugar tax on ALL foods as report reveals the levy on drinks has led to a 30% drop – but progress is stalling on cutting it out of puddings and sweets

  • Sugar levy saw a 30% reduction in amount of sweet stuff in drinks since 2017 
  • Campaigners slammed government as its voluntary scheme only saw 3% drop
  • They said firms would continue to ‘drag their heels’ unless forced to slash sugar 

Campaigners have slammed the government’s voluntary sugar reduction scheme after it was revealed to be 10 times less effective than compulsory drinks tax.

A two-year progress report found the levy on sugary drinks caused the amount of sugar in them to plummet by 29 per cent.

But the government’s request for companies to cut down on the amount of sugar in their snacks only saw it drop by 3 per cent.

Critics said the findings were ‘a wake up call’ that firms would continue to ‘drag their heels’ unless forced to slash sugar from their products.

A levy on sugary drinks has seen a 30 per cent fall in the amount of the sweet stuff in products 

The government introduced a tax of 24p per litre last year on highly sugary drinks and 18p for medium-sugar ones.

This sent companies scrambling to alter their products to avoid being hit with the levy.

The government’s other anti-obesity policy was a non-compulsory ‘challenge’ to food firms.

It encouraged them to reduce the amount of sugar in cakes, sweets, biscuits and desserts by 20 per cent by then end of 2020.

But the latest Public Health England report found it that overall sugar in these products had only dropped by 3 per cent since 2017.

Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar said: ‘Whilst it’s encouraging to learn that both sugary yoghurts and cereals have been successful in the sugar reduction programme proving that reformulation is easily achievable, it is shameful that other manufacturers are dragging their heels and will likely fail to meet the 20 per cent target. Every year more and more children are becoming obese.

‘However, the government should be proud that they were brave enough to introduce the soft drinks levy which has been remarkable in that it allowed for significant sugar reduction in drinks. 

‘Manufacturers were then able to avoid paying the tax– resulting in a much bigger reduction of sugar content in drinks in the UK than originally anticipated.

‘This demonstrates that when properly motivated, the food industry can give us healthier options. 

‘It is imperative that this momentum and levy continues and is applied to calorie-dense processed foods and milk-based drinks that meet an agreed criterion set by the government.’ 

Only yogurts, which had been reduced by 10 per cent, and breakfast cereals, 8.5 per cent, were on track to meet the five-year target.

The sugar content of puddings actually rose 0.5 per cent, while sweets went up 0.6 per cent.

There was little change for chocolate or ice cream and lollies, which all saw just a 0.3 per cent reduction in sugar. 

The sugar content of cakes fell by almost 5 per cent, while the out of home sector -including restaurants, pubs and cafes – saw a 5 per cent drop among all foods. 


The amount of sugar a person should eat in a day depends on how old they are.

Children aged four to six years old should be limited to a maximum of 19g per day.

Seven to 10-year-olds should have no more than 24g, and children aged 11 and over should have 30g or less. 

Meanwhile the NHS recommends adults have no more than 30g of free sugars a day.

Popular snacks contain a surprising amount of sugar and even a single can of Coca Cola (35g of sugar) or one Mars bar (33g) contains more than the maximum amount of sugar a child should have over a whole day.  

A bowl of Frosties contains 24g of sugar, meaning a 10-year-old who has Frosties for breakfast has probably reached their limit for the day before they even leave the house.  

Children who eat too much sugar risk damaging their teeth, putting on fat and becoming overweight, and getting type 2 diabetes which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Source: NHS 



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