Campaigners are calling for a ‘calorie tax’ on crisps, pastries and other unhealthy foods

By Lloyd Bent
Thursday, 08 August, 2019, 11:52

Campaigners are putting pressure on the government to implement a so-called ‘calorie tax’ that could see the price of savoury snacks like crisps and baked goods rise.

Action on Sugar and Action on Salt have both said that a calorie levy would encourage food manufacturers to make healthier products. It follows the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy - widely known as the sugar tax - which is said to have taken 90 million kilograms of sugar out of the diets of people in the UK.

What does the government think?

The government says that is has no plans to implement the tax outlined by the campaign groups, and claims it is already working hard to reduce exposure to sugary and fatty foods.

But the campaign groups argue that the sugar tax “does not go far enough”, and that more needs to be done to help people avoid suffering the consequences of a poor diet.

A study at Queen Mary University of London found that fat contributes significantly more to the calorie content of some unhealthy foods, including 850 cakes and biscuits analysed. Campaigners say that the tax is therefore needed to more effectively reduce the consumption of these foods.

It has also been proposed that the funds raised through the proposed levy could be ring-fenced and used to help fight childhood obesity.

Money could be used to help with childhood obesity

Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt said, “Manufacturers are simply not doing enough. If the government is really committed to helping the less well off, they need to tackle the food industry and a feasibility study needs to be undertaken without delay.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“An ‘excess calorie levy’ would encourage manufacturers to improve the nutritional quality of their unhealthy foods and most importantly, tackle the thousands who suffer the consequences of a poor diet, leading to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.”

Follows the success of the sugar tax

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt praised the levy on sugary soft drinks, calling it “remarkable”.

He explained, “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.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said, “There are no plans to introduce a calorie levy.

“We are already reducing exposure to fatty and sugary foods, and are now consulting on further plans to offer clear labelling and more support for individuals to manage their weight.”