Public Health England (PHE) has found evidence that a sugar tax could help tackle childhood obesity, its chief executive revealed today.
Duncan Selbie was hauled before the health select committee to explain why PHE was refusing to publish its Sugar Reduction strategy, which had been due to be published alongside the SACN review in the summer.
The Grocer revealed in July that PHE had agreed with ministers to delay publication of the report to allow the government to draw up a broader strategy to tackle obesity, rather than just concentrate on sugar reduction.
Selbie told the committee he had agreed with health secretary Jeremy Hunt to the delay so the government had time to draw up plans for a strategy which would work “across the whole of government.”
However, he revealed PHE’s 80-page report, which he said was the most exhaustive meta-analysis of its kind, would include at least some evidence supporting the bringing in of fiscal measures to tackle sugar reduction.
“Our evidence shows it could contribute,” he said, although he added that the report would not recommend a model based on the sugar tax brought in in Mexico.
MPs were left furious at PHE’s refusal today to reveal the document, especially as Hunt has already ruled out the possibility of a sugar tax.
But Selbie said he agreed with Hunt that publication of the sugar reduction strategy in isolation could scupper the chances of a successful obesity strategy.
“I think the government’s worry is it undermines the possibility of a wider strategy,” he said.
“If in the end we could get a strategy that doesn’t reflects the evidence in our report then I will be accountable for it,” he added.