Colombia: why a soft drinks tax is not the solution

Colombia: why a soft drinks tax is not the solution

In view of the possible introduction of a tax on soft drinks in Colombia, the newspaper El Nuevo Día interviewed the executive director of the ANDI Chamber of the Beverage Industry, Santiago López Jaramillo. The tax proposal is currently being discussed by an experts committee and will be submitted to the congress by the end of the year, although, according to López Jaramillo, the Minister of Health already requested an analysis of the potential impact of the soft drinks tax, and neither the commission of tax experts set up for the task, nor the OECD recommended it.

López Jaramillo pointed out that the people most affected by the introduction of a tax would be the lower income households, which spend a greater share of their resources on soft drinks; such an impact is of great concern especially in those rural areas where bottled drinks constitute the sole reliable source of potable water.

The negative impact goes beyond that on consumers, according to López Jaramillo the 37% of income revenue for 600 thousands Colombian families depends on the sales of soft drinks. The risk is to repeat what Mexico experienced, where 30 thousand shops closed and 10’800 jobs were lost following the introduction of a soft drinks tax. The emblematic case of Denmark is also mentioned, where a similar levy was dismantled 15 months after its introductions, as it failed to meet its health targets, while at the same time it impacted negatively the economy.

Asked about the positive effect of the tax on people’s health López Jaramillo replied that it was paradoxical that the suggested measure is the one that failed when implemented in other countries. The root of Colombian health problems lies in the population lifestyles, as Colombia is the second most sedentary country worldwide according to the WHO, he said.


The full article from El Nuevo Día can be found here

Why the UK Sugar Tax will fail to hit the mark

Why the UK Sugar Tax will fail to hit the mark

The Huffington Post published an article that points out some of the contradictions contained in the freshly approved “sugar tax” that the British Government  announced to be put in place in April 2018.

According to Chris Hall who wrote the piece, the tax is misconceived for a series of reasons and he calls into question whether it can succeed in fulfilling its designed objective: tackling the obesity crisis that runs rampant across the UK.

The article critiques the new measure along two main lines of argument. First it reminds that despite the common belief that links sugar intake and weight gain « the actual weight gain associated with sugary drinks is in fact ten times less than was originally theorized, and actually, less than 2% of weight gain can be attributed to drinking sugary drinks ». Secondly it argues that in order to have any meaningful impact any measure aimed at fighting obesity should have a more comprehensive approach that addresses the unhealthy eating patterns of the British population; yet the tax doesn’t even include some sugary drinks that contain as much if not more sugar than those affected by the tax, like juices and milkshakes, says Hall.

The article concludes that overeating habits and a the lack of physical activity especially, rather than sugary drinks, are to blame for the obesity crisis.


The original article by Chris Hall can be found on the Huffington Post

Australian Beverages Council replies to calls for ‘soda tax’ providing evidence on its ineffectiveness and unfairness

Australian Beverages Council replies to calls for ‘soda tax’ providing evidence on its ineffectiveness and unfairness

Like many other countries, Australia is looking for the best solution to tackle the growing problem of obesity. As many are asking for a tax on certain products, including soft drinks, the Australian Beverages Council shows why a measure of this type will not work.

First of all, recent studies have identified what has been called “Australian Paradox” – the fact that in the last years, while the refined sugar intake has dramatically decreased (26%), as well as the consumption of sweetened beverages, the prevalence of obesity in Australians was multiplied by 3. Moreover, according to a 2012 Australian Health Survey conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), soft drinks represent just 1.7% of the average adult’s daily calorie intake. This figure shows that a tax on soft drinks would not have much effects.

In addition, similar taxes in other countries have failed: the Danish ‘fat tax’ was abolished 18 months after its introduction due to its ineffectiveness and negative impact on the economy. In 2014 also the European Commission conducted a study on the impact of food taxes, concluding that instead of increasing citizens’ health these measures provoked job losses, higher food prices and higher administrative costs.

The introduction of a soft drinks tax in Mexico has raised another fundamental concern: the 63,7% of it is collected from low income families, according to KantarWorldpanel. This illustrates how such taxes are regressive and damage the most the least well-off families.

Two more facts have to be taken into account: consumers are choosing more and more no or low calorie products and, according to a 2014 Australian survey, they strongly believe that education is the most effective way to tackle obesity.

The full statement by the Australian Beverages Council can be found here: ABC White Paper.

Focus on fitness not fatness – Why food taxes are missing the point

Focus on fitness not fatness – Why food taxes are missing the point

Researcher at the University of Essex, children’s fitness expert Dr. Gavin Sandercock writes in BBC news that we have been looking at obesity the wrong way, leaving the harm generated by physical inactivity aside.


Dr. Sandercock points out that reports alerting on an “obesity time-bomb” are multiplying. But according to him, the extent of the problem is often exaggerated. Figures from the National Child Measurement Programme for 2010-2011 estimate that 9% of 5 to 6-year-olds are obese, that is, Dr. Sandercock says, 2.7 children out of 30 in a class. It was 1.5 in 1990. He underlines that an “epidemic” is a term corresponding to the increase of one child per class in 20 years and suggests that childhood obesity are somewhat plateauing (25 for 2-5-years-olds boys, 23% for girls between 2003 and 2013).


Furthermore, Dr. Sandercock says that public health keeps being focused on food and obesity, and overlooks physical activity. As dietary guidelines vary with time, some propose to tax “unhealthy foods” as a way to tackle obesity. He underlines that we are missing the point by putting the focus on taxes. Healthy eating cannot be the only answer to obesity: physical activity is the key feature to keep in mind.


Those observations are corroborated by studies made in Australia in 2011, by the Snowdon report “The Fat Lie” in 2014, and most recently by Ekelund et al. 2015.


Quoting the British Heart Foundation 2015 figures, Dr. Sandercock shows that none of 11-15 year-old girls do enough exercise, and only 7% for boys. He calls for 60 minutes of exercise for children and young people each day and praises iniatiatives on physical activity launched around UK. To conclude, he points out that physical activity will not solve all obesity issues, but will benefit to all.


The full article can be read here

Trade media comments on “The Fat Lie”

Trade media comments on “The Fat Lie”

Obesity caused mainly by inactivity, not by sugar 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 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