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Introduce sugar tax to combat obesity crisis, says Unite

Ministers should introduce a sugar tax and ban the advertising of sugary drinks and food, as the obesity crisis amongst children grows, Unite, the union, said today (Friday 17 July).

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), was commenting on the report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) which advised the government to halve the current recommended intake of ‘free sugars’ in a bid to tackle the growing obesity and diabetes crises, estimated to cost the NHS £15 billion a year.

Unite criticised the government which has said it will not be introducing a sugar tax  to reduce  the use of ‘free sugars’  - these are added to food by manufacturers or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

Unite’s professional officer for public health and school nursing Ros Godson said: “Health visitors and school nurses are constantly trying to persuade families, children and young people to eat more healthily.

“Now the latest in a series of independent evidence-based reports specifies more clearly that dietary sugar, in all its guises, needs to be halved to reduce diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

“Children should reduce their intake of sugar to the equivalent of only half a dozen sugar cubes a day.

“We call on the government to support the SACN recommendations by outlawing the advertising of sugary drinks and foods to children.

“Children are constantly exposed to junk food marketing: on TV, on radio, on the internet, in emails, social media and text messages, at the cinema, in comics and magazines, in supermarkets, on food packaging, and, for some, even at school.

“Busy parents cannot be expected to read small print on food labels to work out all the different names that manufacturers use to describe ‘free sugars’.

“Nor can the government continue to rely on voluntary initiatives, such as the Responsibility Deal, where businesses pledge to improve public health, but which has had no impact on rising levels of obesity and sugar related diabetes.

“As a mark of its intention to take children’s public health seriously we call upon the government to legislate for a sugary drinks tax in the next session of parliament.”

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.

Links added by WG editor:

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) – links to report and press release

Responsibility Deal

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