Why is it so important, and what does Jamie hope will happen now it’s been introduced? Here, Jenny Rosborough, Jamie’s Head of Nutrition, explains the impact of this momentous new levy.
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy officially comes into effect today – 6 April 2018 – and we’ve already seen signs of its success. Since the levy was announced in 2016, it has driven reformulation of products at an unprecedented rate (when brands reduce the level of sugar, fat and salt in their products) and it will also channel new money into child health. Win win!
What changes are we seeing?
Soft drink companies who make products containing more than 5% sugar will have to pay between 18p and 24p for every litre they produce. This means that nearly 50% of the sugar-sweetened soft drinks market have already reduced the level of sugar in their products, in order to avoid paying the levy.
Importantly, the money raised from the levy will be spent funding breakfast clubs and sports in schools.
Why do we need to restrict high-sugar drinks?
Many cans of soft drink contain 10 teaspoons of sugar or more, which is above the maximum daily sugar recommendation for adults! (The maximum recommendation is 5 teaspoons for 4-6 year olds, 6 teaspoons for ages 6-10 and 7 teaspoons for 11 years and over.) Soft drinks are the biggest source of sugar in the diets of children and teenagers in the UK, yet contain no nutritional value. These drinks contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay, weight gain and subsequently other diet-related diseases, like type-2 diabetes. So it was vital that the government took action when they did.
So, what next?
The soft drinks levy, backed by 69% of the public, is a significant moment for public health. It’s a vital step forward in the effort to reduce the amount of sugar we consume as a population – which currently exceeds the government recommendation by two to three times. Plus, it’s a sign that the government accepts that improvements to the food environment need to be tackled head-on, at national scale, if they are really serious about protecting children’s health.
This is just the start of a range of measures needed to reduce the rate of childhood obesity – including tighter restrictions on the advertising of foods and drinks that contain high amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fat.
“This levy is one of the most important and symbolic moments so far in the fight to protect our kids against diet-related disease. This is a progressive levy, for good, which – let’s remember – polled at 69% popularity, and will bring much-needed new money into the education system. My hope is that some of this money will be funnelled into food education to teach our kids how to cook from scratch, setting them up for life. But the real beauty of this levy is that it’s pushed the industry to accelerate reformulation of high-sugar fizzy drinks, which is profoundly powerful for child health. These drinks are the single largest source of sugar and empty calories in our children’s diets – action is essential!
“This levy was the only progressive, steely action proposed in the government’s previous – and frankly disgraceful – childhood obesity strategy. But I’m hopeful that they’ll now put Britain’s kids first and deliver a brave and powerful chapter 2 of the childhood obesity strategy before the summer recess. Here’s hoping – a strong and stable future starts with child health.”
For more detail, visit our Sugary Drinks Levy FAQs. For information on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and type-1 diabetes, we recommend the info on Diabetes UK website. For more information on artificial sweeteners, visit the NHS website’s page.
NB: Sugars in this feature refers to ‘free sugars’, which includes sugars that are added to food and drink, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. It does not refer to sugars in milk products and whole fruit and vegetables. Read our guide for more information on different types of sugar.