A broad consensus against the introduction of a sugar tax in the Netherlands has emerged from parties across the political spectrum.
Asked about their position on the issue following the debate in the UK, some Dutch politicians expressed opposition to changing citizens’ behavior through taxation: “People should decide for themselves what they eat and drink“, said Erik Ziengs, from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). A view shared also by Reinette Klever, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the Party for Freedom (PVV), according to whom a sugar tax would be “patronizing“. Others, like Hanke Bruins Slot of the CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), stressed that “Sugar is a natural product”.
The Socialist Party, which is working towards less sugar and salt in products, has ruled out taxation as an effective measure, preferring instead to push manufacturers to use less sugar and salt.
More strikingly, even parties in favour of a sugar tax like the Labour Party (PvdA) do not have a clear proposal on how to make it technically feasible. “It would mean a lot of hassle”, admitted Ed Groot, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the PvdA.
The full article (in Dutch) can be found at: http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/24811269/__Suikertaks_niet_in_zicht__.html
A new report based on real-world examples by the prestigious UK-based think tank Institute for Economic Affairs demonstrates that sugar taxes are ineffective, regressive and inefficient.
The main findings confirm what many other studies have already shown, in particular:
- The demand for sugary drinks, snacks and fatty foods is inelastic: evidence demonstrates that most people will not change their food shopping habits unless prices change dramatically
- Consumers respond by substituting taxed food and drinks with cheaper brands of the same products or with similar non-taxed products. This behaviour leads to the consumption of potentially inferior goods rather than the consumption of fewer calories
- Consumers tend to switch from taxed sugary drinks to other high calorie drinks such as fruit juice, milk or alcohol
- Food taxes are highly regressive and severely hit low income households because energy-dense food and soft drinks take a greater share of their earnings than that of higher income households
- Most notably, no impact on health has ever been found
Asked to comment on the report, Chris Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that the effectiveness of sugar taxes as health measures lack “any real world evidence”.
“It’s high time this policy [taxing sugar] is put to bed” – he concluded.
In an interview available on the website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance, the Minister Vladislav Goranov, asked to comment on the matter, has voiced his opposition to the much debated proposal of a ‘food tax’.
The Finance Minister questioned whether it is appropriate to change consumers’ behaviour through the introduction of new taxes, adding that this very goal would fail. Moreover, he expressed his concern that such a measure could result in the smuggling of similar goods not subject to taxation from neighbouring countries.
In conclusion, Minister Goranov stated that most likely this type of tax will not be introduced.
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.
A study conducted by Mexican econometricians and researchers of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) on the impact of the tax on drinks with added sugars found that the measure failed in reducing calorie consumption and tackling overweight and obesity.
The study “Taxing Calories in Mexico” is the first large-scale analysis of the effects of the special tax introduced in 2013 by the Mexican government with the declared objective of reducing consumption of food and non-alcoholic beverages allegedly associated with overweight and obesity.
The results represent new fundamental evidence to support what a growing number of studies has demonstrated, in particular:
- There is no academic evidence to prove that an increase in prices deriving from a tax over “caloric food” (drinks with added sugar especially) leads to a significant reduction in total caloric consumption and/or incidence on the Body Mass Index (BMI) of people. One year after the implementation of the tax the BMI in Mexico is still increasing and the total caloric consumption decreased by less than 1% only, especially due to substitution effects.
- Taxes of this kind have a stronger negative impact on the poorer households since they spend a higher proportion of their income on food and beverages.
The study was funded by the Consejo Mexicano de la Industria de Productos de Consumo, A.C. (ConMéxico), which signed an agreement with ITAM to ensure full academic independence for the authors in conducting the research and using the results.
The complete study and its conclusions are available at: http://cie.itam.mx/sites/default/files/cie/15-04.pdf