No matter which way you look at it, the world is currently experiencing a global obesity crisis, and the UK is by no means exempt. In fact, according to a recent article published in the Telegraph, one in four Brits now fall into the obese category. With this label comes an array of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and even depression. So what’s being done about the nationwide issue? Let’s take a look:
The Public Health Responsibility Deal
Calling on companies to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the nation, the Public Health Responsibility Deal encourages organisations to take voluntary action, both as employees and as distributors of consumables. While the main focus is on tackling obesity by reducing salt intake and calorie counts, ministers are also pushing for voluntary front-of-pack labelling which will help consumers keep track of how much sugar they are devouring.
The Sugar Tax
We’ve seen hefty taxes slapped onto alcohol and cigarettes and it looks like sugar could be next in line. With many health experts labelling it as an “addictive substance,” England’s chief medical officer has advised that the country may need to introduce a sugar tax in order to curb the obesity epidemic. Designed to “save the nation from themselves,” the proposed sugar tax will put a premium on sugary products with the intention of discouraging people to buy them. While a number has not yet been confirmed, figures of up to 20% have been suggested by government agencies. What will this mean for the UK food industry?
• Healthier Brits
At the end of the day, the sugar tax is designed to reduce obesity and discourage UK consumers from purchasing cheap, sugary food and drink. According to a draft ‘action’’ document prepared for Public Health England, the introduction of a 20% tax is expected to reduce obesity rates by 1.3%.
• A boost for the tax man
According to statistics from charitable government food and farming advisor Sustain, the UK guzzles over 5,500 million litres of sugar laden soft drinks each year. Adding a 20p tax to each litre would result in an extra £1.1 billion of annual government revenue.
• Sugar substitutes
Should a sugar tax go ahead, it will inevitably see manufacturers turning to other forms of sweetener in order to appeal to consumer tastes. While natural sweeteners are preferable, they are not cheap which could see some manufacturers resorting to chemical laden artificial sweeteners in order to give their products that sugary hit. In turn, this could instil the need for counter industry regulations regarding artificial sugar content and quality in food.
While there are a number of drastic plans currently being considered, many health experts maintain that combating the obesity crisis is all about education. If children are not taught how to calculate sugar content and choose healthy foods from a young age, they are far more likely to grow up living an unhealthy lifestyle. As such, introducing food education into schools could become a reality in the very near future.