The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) has welcomed the government’s announcement of a tax on sugary drinks, but says this is only one of a number of measures that could be used to improve oral health, reduce childhood obesity and reduce the incidence of diabetes.
Following a campaign by chef Jamie Oliver and national health organisations, including FGDP(UK), yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he will impose a levy on soft drinks with total sugar content above 5 grams per 100ml, with a higher rate to be paid on drinks with more than 8 grams per 100ml. The government says the levy, which will be imposed on producers and importers, will raise around £520 million each year, and the English share of the proceeds will be earmarked for increasing sport and extracurricular activities in schools.
With a single can of fizzy drink containing more than a child’s recommended daily intake of sugar, the government’s emphasis is on incentivising manufacturers to reformulate their products. However, the tax will not apply to milk-based drinks or fruit juices.
Sugar consumption is almost three times the government’s recommended maximum of 5% of total energy intake, and the Faculty endorses taxation of sugary drinks as part of a programme of measures to help tackle sugar-related illnesses.
FGDP(UK) Dean, Mick Horton, said:
“This is definitely a step in the right direction. Sugary drinks are now children’s biggest source of dietary sugar. In England, two in ten are obese by the time they leave primary school, and tooth extraction is the primary reason why children are admitted to hospital.
“Whilst investing in school sport is laudable, there is a need to educate the public as to the dangers of a high sugar diet and the potential risks to health of childhood obesity, diabetes and avoidable dental extractions.
“The government could have used this levy to challenge the culture in which the average person drinks two litres of high sugar soft drinks every week, and we look forward to seeing further measures in the Childhood Obesity Strategy."