Campaigners seek calorie tax to tackle obesity crisis

Action on Sugar and Action on Salt are calling on the government to introduce a calorie levy on all calorie dense processed foods that meet an agreed criteria set by government.

Similar to the successful Soft Drinks Industry Levy, whereby manufacturers are forced to pay a levy to the government if they fail to reduce excessive calories, the two campaign groups, based at Queen Mary University of London, argue that the move would encourage product reformulation to reduce both fat as well as sugar in unhealthy products and encourage them to develop healthier, lower calorie products.

Fat is a bigger contributor to calories in the diet than sugar and therefore essential that manufacturers are encouraged to reduce both in order to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis.

Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said: “The UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy has been remarkable and unique in that it allows for significant product reformulation by manufacturers in order to avoid paying the levy. This has already resulted in a much bigger reduction of sugar content of drinks in the UK than originally anticipated, as well as ring fencing £340 million of income directly from manufacturers, not the public, to spend on improving children’s health. It is imperative that this levy continues.

“Additionally, the same could be achieved in creating a levy to reduce excess calories but we need a firm commitment from HM Treasury and The Department of Health and Social Care to make this a reality and to implement a robust evaluation system to fill in the evidence gaps. This levy should be invested back in a much more comprehensive approach to prevent obesity in children.”