Report on success of the sugar tax 'held up by Downing Street'

20/09/2019 - 09:39
Publication of a two-year progress report, that claims to show the success of the sugar tax, has been delayed by Downing Street because of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s scepticism about ‘sin taxes’, according to The Times.

The report, which The Times claims to have seen, finds that a compulsory levy on fizzy drinks has reduced sugar ten times faster than a request to companies to take the sweetener out of their products.

Johnson said during his leadership campaign he would review ‘sin stealth taxes’, demanding evidence that the tax ‘actually stops people from being so fat’.

The government introduced a levy of 24p a litre last year on high-sugar drinks and 18p for medium-sugar ones. Companies acted quickly to alter their products to avoid the tax, but had been much more relaxed about the voluntary ‘challenge’ to cut sugar in biscuits, cakes, sweets and puddings by 20% over five years, said the newspaper.

The Times claims the report finds that overall sugar in these foods has been reduced by only 3%, with Public Health England (PHE) reportedly saying that the 20% target was on course to be missed, with only breakfast cereals and yogurts on track.

However, progress has been ‘much greater’ on soft drinks covered by the levy, with a fall of 29% in sugar content.

The Times report says that PHE has made several attempts to publish the report in recent weeks, but has been 'rebuffed by Downing Street', which controls the timing of official announcements. The report is understood to have been completed some time ago.

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