Health groups have launched a major bid to revive plans for new taxes on HFSS products ahead of the next general election.
Almost 40 campaign groups and medical royal colleges are calling on the next government to extend the soft drinks sugar levy to include a raft of new categories, in line with proposals in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy (NFS).
In his report, published in July 2021, the former Leon restaurant boss proposed a raft of taxes on HFSS products but the Department of Health failed to follow up on any of the measures, with Dimbleby quitting in protest at its lack of action earlier this year.
The Recipe for Change campaign is made up of 36 health organisations, including royal colleges and charities such as the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research Fund UK.
It wants the government to act on Dimbleby’ s call for a £3/kg levy on sugar and £6/kg levy on salt as proposed by the NFS, which would be applied to all sugar and salt used in manufactured foods, restaurants and the catering industry.
The group said it was targeting products such as confectionery, biscuits, cakes, desserts, crisps and savoury snacks.
Modelling by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine claimed almost two million cases of chronic disease could be prevented over the next 25 years, including more than a million cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD), 570,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes and 250,000 cases of respiratory disease.
The research claimed taxes could reduce average salt intake per adult by up to 0.9g per day (15% of recommended daily intake) and sugar by up to 15g per day (50% of recommended daily intake).
Free webinar looks back at HFSS impact one year on from implimentation
Meanwhile the taxes could save the economy £77.9bn in costs to health services, said the research.
The groups also produced polling saying nearly 70% of the public would support further industry food levies, if revenues raised were also invested in children’s health.
“Introducing an industry levy on soft drinks encouraged companies to remove sugar and change their recipes, transforming what was being sold to us,” said Barbara Crowther, children’s food campaign manager at Sustain.
“But it’s still not enough when other unhealthy products continue to be so prevalent in our lives, driving up ill health.”
Anna Taylor, CEO of the Food Foundation, added: “People on low incomes find it hardest to escape the impact of low-quality food. Lower-income households would need to spend 50% of their disposable income on food to meet the cost of the government’s recommended healthy diet.
“The soft drinks industry levy has had a disproportionately positive effect on low-income households, showing a sharper decrease in sugar purchases than in other households. It is vital that revenue from any new levy is used to improve access to nutritious foods to those who face the biggest barriers.”
Obesity Health Alliance director Katharine Jenner said: “Hundreds of policies to address obesity have failed to deliver, because they have relied on individuals having to change their behaviour in a food environment that is rigged against them. The food we buy is jam-packed with sugar and most of our food comes ready-salted – we need to put healthier food on the shelves by introducing a levy on industry to encourage them to change their recipes.”