Is Britain addicted to sugar? Norwich professor criticises government obesity strategy

A cola carbonated drink surrounded by sugar cubes. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

A cola carbonated drink surrounded by sugar cubes. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A Norwich professor has said the food industry needs to be threatened with a tax if sugar intake is to be reduced.

Paul Dobson, professor of business strategy and public policy at the University of East Anglia, was quizzed by the Health Select Committee about a voluntary target for the food industry to cut 20pc of sugar from products including cereals, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, confectionery, puddings, ice cream and sweet spreads, over the next five years.

It came as England's public health minister Nicola Blackwood said children had among the highest sugar intake across Europe, and Britain is addicted to the sweetner.

The Government's childhood obesity plan, released last summer, drew much criticism from health bodies for omitting new curbs on junk food advertising.

The document had an emphasis on greater physical activity in schools and a voluntary scheme for the food industry to reformulate popular children's products to reduce sugar content.


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Prof Dobson, told the committee: '(These measures) will fail because they are not targeted.

'They have the same problems as the Responsibility Deal in that they relying on one-to-one agreements over it as opposed to industry requirement to do it.

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'The reason I think the soft drinks industry levy will work is because it will apply to the industry. You either reformulate or you will pay a tax.

'There is a clear incentive on everybody to move in a direction.

'A vague statement: 'we want to reduce 20%' without identifying where you want that 20% to come down to, or how you're going to achieve it, is clearly not going to be a successful strategy because it doesn't even tell you where the starting point is.'

He added: 'There is no stick here. What is the threat if you don't comply?

'There should be some threat that 'if you don't reduce by this level by the set period then there will be a sugar tax introduced for your particular category'.'

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