Politics

UK sugar tax could cost Britons £240 a year as fury mounts at ‘nanny state meddling’

Sugar tax: Expert says people 'compensate in other ways'

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The Prime Minister admitted he was “not attracted” to the idea of slapping levies on snacks based on their sugar and salt content in a bid to combat Britain’s rising obesity levels. His refusal to side with Henry Dimbleby’s proposal came after accusations the Government was trying to roll out a “nanny state”.

Speaking in Coventry today, the Prime Minister said: “I am not, I must say, attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard working people.”

The independent National Food Strategy called for a sugar and salt reformulation tax as a key part of efforts to transform the nation’s diet to include less sugar, salt and meat to protect health and the environment.

The report said some cash raised by the tax should be spent on addressing the inequalities around food.

Examples included expanding free school meals, funding holiday activity and food clubs, and providing healthy food to low-income families.

It said what we eat, and how it is produced, is doing “terrible damage”, contributing to 64,000 deaths a year in England, and costing the economy £74billion.

It also said our habits are fuelling the loss of wildlife and exacerbating climate change – which in turn put food security at risk.

Mr Dimbleby, the founder of the restaurant chain Leon, was commissioned by the Government in 2019 to conduct the first major review of England’s entire food system in 75 years.

The second part of the report was released today, a year after the first instalment was published.

He suggested the public should slash meat consumption by 30 percent by 2032 to help ensure the UK meets its commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

And during that period, the report said, people will need to lower their intake of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt by 25 percent.

Critics warned any tax on snacks would not lead to a healthier nation but a poorer one.

YouTube star Paul Joseph Watson tweeted: “A sugar tax isn’t going to make poor people thinner, it’s just going to make them poorer.

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“A better solution would be a full-on public relations war against the ‘body positivity movement,’ which tells people that being fat and developing life-threatening diseases is normal and should be promoted. It isn’t and shouldn’t.”

The Spectator’s Kate Andrews slapped down the plans and said the suggestion show the “nanny state has gone mad”.

Another opponent of the proposed levies said: “It’s a way for the government to get more revenue for poor people under the guise of helping them.”

But Mr Dimbleby insisted action is needed to break the “junk food cycle” between consumers and food companies.

He told BBC Breakfast that taxes on sugar recommended by his report are unlikely to have an impact on ordinary consumers.

He said there needs to be a change from thinking that people need to exercise and exert willpower to tackle food-related disease – which he said is not true, as it is an interaction between companies’ commercial incentives and people’s appetites.

He said: “We find these foods that they’re marketing delicious, they don’t make us as full as quickly – we eat more, they invest more.

“You’re not going to break this junk food cycle … unless you tackle it directly, and that is what we are recommending with the sugar and salt reformulation tax.”

Mr Johnson was quizzed on the report during a visit to Coventry today.

He said he would “study the report,” adding: “I think it is an independent report.”

He said he had no doubt the report contained “some good ideas”.

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