Silent Assassin: Health groups demand sugar tax on soft drinks | News from the region

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Proposals to introduce a sugar tax to fight obesity and other chronic health problems like diabetes are a “last century’s solution to a modern problem,” according to the Australian Beverages Council. Since sugary drinks offer “no nutritional value”, organizations such as Diabetes Australia, Cancer Council, Heart Foundation, Stroke Foundation and Kidney Health Australia have already called for these products to be subject to a tax – or to a health tax – with the aim of raising “hundreds of millions of dollars” a year to fund prevention programs. But Australian Beverages Council chief Geoff Parker says the tax would not only affect households, but would have little impact on obesity and diabetes rates. “This type of discriminatory and regressive tax lacks evidence from anywhere in the world to provide public health benefits,” he said. “Countries that have introduced similar taxes haven’t seen a significant impact on obesity and diabetes rates, and many have repealed them – including Denmark, Norway and other Nordic countries.” UK residents are also not losing weight or reducing the incidence of diabetes since the UK sugar tax, and obesity prevalence rates in Mexico have increased since the introduction of this tax. “This lack of real evidence is one of the reasons the federal government is not supporting a household tax, especially at a time when many families are facing extreme hardship due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. ” Mr Parker said calls for a tax on sugary drinks also ignored recent peer-reviewed research in the journal Nutrients which showed that over a 20-year period, Australians drank 30% less sugar while they switched to low or no sugar. drinks such as sparkling water and still water. “In fact, since 2015, sales of low-sugar / sugar-free drinks have exceeded those of regular sugary drinks and the gap continues to widen,” he said. The industry’s ‘sugar reduction pledge’, launched in June 2018, was a pledge by the nation’s largest beverage companies to reduce sugar in their portfolios by 20% by 2025 – a target it said the industry was already on track to achieve. “This is the first time that an industry has come together to reduce sugar and shows that the beverage industry is stepping up to play its part and is ahead of the rest of the cart items by being responsive and responsible.” Mr. Parker said. “The beverage industry is encouraging other sectors of the food supply to step up and launch their own commitments and play their part in solving a complex and multifactorial problem like obesity and diabetes.” Professor Greg Johnson, formerly of Diabetes Australia, said that if taxing sugar across the entire food chain were “more complex”, a tax on sugary drinks would have a high level of public and community support and would be relatively easy to do. “It could raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and that money could be well spent on prevention programs for a range of different health problems,” he said. “Basically what we need to do is have a healthier food supply. Too much of our food supply – all of the food available and bought by Australians every day – is processed food with too much added fat, of added sugar and added salt. ”It’s not just about sugar. For diabetes, it is all three. In New South Wales, sugary drinks have been phased out from vending machines, cafes and food services at health facilities across the state as the government tries to cut obesity rates. The sale of sugary drinks was also recently banned in public hospitals in Western Australia. Professor Johnson said more attention needs to be paid to promoting “cheap, well-marketed and over-consumed” junk food – especially to children. “Instead of these foods being occasional foods, they have become everyday foods. And that contributes greatly to our health problems in Australia, ”he said. “Here we have a complex problem related to modern lifestyles. “People’s stress levels, the foods we eat, the excessive production and promotion of highly processed foods containing fats, sugar and salt; the sedentary lifestyles we live in front of screens and being less physically active – all of these things contribute significantly. diabetes pandemic. “A sugar tax will not do that by itself. There is no single solution to a large and complex problem. Laureate Professor Clare Collins, professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, would like the makers of ultra-processed junk food to do more to “prove products are safe.” “Or just impose a tax on them,” she said. “We absolutely need taxation to be a deterrent. “

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SILENT ASSASSIN

Rachel J. Bradford