According to an article from Die Welt the Federal Minister of Food, Christian Schmidt (CSU) rejects a tax on sugary drinks on the model of the one announced by the British Government on March 16 2016. The Ministry spokesperson reminded that previous tax attempts in the EU did not achieved the desired results, instead they have been very costly to implement and manage.
Detlef Groß, president of the German association for the non-alcoholic beverages, recognizes that «obesity is a complex phenomenon», one that cannot be stopped by a one-sided discriminatory tax on a single product category. Mr. Groß also reminded that soft drinks accounted for only a small part of the daily caloric intake as the the sector offers consumers a wide range of options, both with and without sugar.
The Ministry seems is on the same page as it states that taking action on soft drinks alone would be irrelevant; instead it envisions a holistic approach, stressing that people has to be convinced to pursue a healthy lifestyle, rather than forcing them to change their habits through legal constraints. According to the Ministry the key to healthy practices is in the school system which should educate and inform the population since childhood in order to foster “nutritional competence”. At the same time the Federal Government created a €2 millions research fund to study the reduction of salt, sugar and fat in processed food.
Please find the original article on Die Welt website.
A new study on the effects of the Mexican tax on sugar sweetened beverages published in the medical journal ‘The BMJ’ has triggered different reactions among experts, after finding a 6% drop in sales, while an increase in consumption of bottled water and other non-taxed drinks.
A research team from Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, a federal health agency, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compared sales data before and after the implementation of the tax, looking at purchasing patterns in more than 6,000 households across 53 large Mexican cities. They found that on average in 2014 the sales of sugary beverages fell by 6%. The decline was particularly high among low income households, whose consumption had fallen 17%, confirming the discriminatory effect of such a tax.
Some observers looked at these findings as the proof that taxation can influence consumers’ behaviour, while others are more cautious, questioning whether such a measure is appropriate and warning of its multiple and complicated side effects. The study itself concludes that at the moment it cannot be foreseen “whether the trend continues or stabilizes” and if “consumers substitute cheaper brands or untaxed foods and beverages for the taxed ones, or adjustments occur in the longer term”.
Franco Sassi from OECD, in an editorial published on ‘The BMJ’ together with the study, underlined that taxes do not necessarily lead to healthier diets and the “full extent of substitutions made by Mexican consumers is not known”. Mr. Sassi also added that “taxes are not simple tools, and designing them to engineer an improvement in people’s diets is especially complex”. The approach to a problem like the one of obesity should be comprehensive, much broader than just taxation: education, voluntary initiatives by the industry and regulatory measures (e.g. labelling) are some examples.
“Taxes (…) cannot be viewed as a magic bullet in the fight against obesity” – he concluded.
When asked to comment on Jamie Oliver’s controversial ‘sugar tax’, Dutch experts expressed their doubts regarding the efficacy of such measure when it comes to improving public health.
A tax on sugar barely makes sense because consumption may decrease only if prices substantially increase, according to Astrid Postma-Smeets, nutrition and health expert at the Voedingscentrum (Dutch Nutrition Centre). The Nutrition Center is the authority that provides consumers with independent and science-based information on healthy, safe and more sustainable food choices. Instead of campaigning for a ‘sugar-tax’, the Centre is convinced that the best approach to obesity is prevention and education.
Also Jos Look, board member of the Dutch Obesity Society, has his doubts on taxation, especially on soft drinks: “Almost 51 percent of the Dutch population is overweight and more than a third of them is severely overweight. And that is certainly not only because of a Coke. You can find added sugars in everything: even in packaged fresh fruit salad”.
The original article published in De Telegraaf can be found here.
Obesity is a critical global issue that requires a comprehensive, international intervention strategy.
Much of the global debate on this issue has become polarized and sometimes deeply antagonistic. Obesity is a complex, systemic issue with no single or simple solution. The global discord surrounding how to move forward underscores the need for integrated assessments of potential solutions.
A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) discussion paper, Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis, seeks to overcome these hurdles by offering an independent view on the components of a potential strategy.
The main findings of the discussion paper include:
- Existing evidence indicates that no single intervention is likely to have a significant overall impact.
- Education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program aiming to reduce obesity
- No individual sector in society can address obesity on its own
Read the full paper here.
Obesity caused mainly by inactivity, not by sugar
Foodmanufacture.co.uk by Laurence Gibbons
Public health campaigners have attributed Britain’s obesity epidemic to increased availability of junk food. however all the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, fat and calories has been falling in the UK for decades, IEA claimed in a report.
Read more by clicking the link above.
Comment: Holistic approach to obesity issue needed
Justfood.com by Katy Askew
The Institute of Economic Affairs, a UK think tank, raised an improtant issue yesterday (18 August) when it insisted a decline in physical activity is the “root cause” of the obesity epidemic. The IEA research aims to debunk the widespread belief that our widening girths can largely be attributed to calorie consumption.
Read more by clicking the link above
Matthew Syed, British journalist, three-time Commonwealth table tennis champion and a two-time Olympian, was recently at a school in south London to open a new table tennis club.
The school was “magnificent” and, in the words of its headmaster, it would “not allow anything stand in the way of these kids reaching their potential”. Despite this, the school’s caring approach was not producing the results sought for. It was discover that pupils from the school often struggled to make it through University and had higher drop-out rates. The reason was then found out, as the headmaster confesses:
“But then we realised that that was part of the problem. We had done too much. Any time they messed up, we were there to pick them up. Every time they strayed, we put them back on course. We were, in effect, spoon-feeding them”.
The realization prompts Mr Syed to a wider reflection on the current debate on nutrition:
““[…] And this brings me to the obesity epidemic. Over the past fortnight, we have heard from a number of health “experts”. They have argued for new taxes on sugary food, negative advertising on high-fat ready meals; some have even proposed that people with a body mass index above 30 should be offered a stomach stapling operation at the expense of the taxpayer.
Their motivation is sound. They want people to be thinner and healthier. The interventions, from their perspective, make sense and may even, in the short term, work. But now take a step back and think of the psychological consequences.
The message to society is: we will make you thinner. Don’t worry about taking responsibility for what you put in your mouths or taking exercise: we will orchestrate the world (to the extent of manipulating prices and stapling your belly) to make sure you lose weight. They have even “medicalised” the problem of overeating, talking about people who are “weak-willed” or have “addictive personalities”.
The consequence is unavoidable and rather tragic: another weakening in the concept of self-reliance […]”
Read the full article here.