Levy called for all calorie-dense processed foods
Companies making processed foods with excessive calories should be taxed, says Action on Sugar and Action on Salt.
This, they say, would encourage product reformulation to reduce both fat as well as sugar in unhealthy products. Fat is a bigger contributor to calories in the diet than sugar and therefore essential that manufacturers are encouraged to reduce both in order to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis.
The levy would ensure companies are held to account if they make processed unhealthy food with excessive calories as part of a comprehensive set of measures to encourage them to develop healthier, lower-calorie products, the groups said.
This can help reduce the excessive calorie intake at a population level which is currently contributing to the rise in childhood obesity. Funds raised from the levy must then be ring-fenced to go towards improving children’s health by investing in tackling childhood obesity, the groups insist.
A recent study, published in nutrition journal Nutrients, showed that when compared to sugar reformulation alone, fat and sugar reformulation could result in a larger reduction in excess calories to reduce obesity. In the study, the researchers found that fat contributes significantly more to the calorie content of cakes and biscuits than sugar i.e. the more fat they contain, the more calories they contain, regardless of their sugar content. There is a huge variation of fat within the same categories of cakes and biscuits indicating that reformulation is easily achievable.
Public Health England (PHE) currently has two separate reformulation programmes to tackle the obesity epidemic – the Sugar Reduction Programme and the yet-to be detailed Calorie Reduction Programme, which is illogical, the groups said. For example, cakes and biscuits are included in the Sugar Reduction Programme but not in the Calorie Reduction Programme, despite them being categories that contribute to excess calorie intake from sugar as well as fat.
Action on Salt and Action on Sugar is urging these widely consumed unhealthy foods, along with other sweet and fatty categories such as chocolate confectionery, ice creams, puddings, chocolate spreads, morning goods and milk-based drinks, to be included in the long-awaited Calorie Reduction Programme.