I’m pretty disappointed to see all of the praise surrounding the UK’s new tax on sugary beverages, particularly from here in Australia. In response to increasing childhood obesity levels, last week it was announced that companies in the UK will be taxed on beverages containing more than 5g of sugar per 100g.
Personally, I don’t feel that placing any sort of tax on sugar laden items is going to have much of an influence on obesity. Take alcohol, for instance. People love to drink. Drinking has become somewhat of a culture here in Australia. Bars and nightclubs heavily inflate the prices of the alcohol they sell, yet there is no shortage of people pushing their way through the crowds and flashing their cash every weekend.
Every week, we hear news of binge drinking, underage drinking and alcohol related offenses in the news. Similar to obesity, media campaigns drive home the seriousness of irresponsible alcohol consumption each and every week. Yet people still buy it. I have two new bottle shops within walking distance of my house that weren’t there ten years ago. If people love something, they are still going to buy it, regardless of the price. And companies aren’t going to change their attitudes, or their product while the demand is there.
In my opinion, the issue with sugar doesn’t lie in the chocolate bars, the soft drinks, ice cream, lollies, cakes, or even sugar itself. Many people (myself included) enjoy these items alongside a relatively healthy diet. There’s no deception in these items. Everyone is well aware of what these items are. Treat food. But just in case you didn’t, our media does a decent job of raising awareness.
The real issue is all of the sugar hidden in seemingly healthy products on our supermarket shelves. Our foods are actually sweeter than they were a few decades ago. Companies purposely add extra sugar into their products to give them the “bliss” factor, so that their customers will crave it again and again. Many low fat foods substitute the fat for added sugar. Sugar can make anything taste good. Sugar is addictive. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend That Sugar Film.
I used to look for products low in fat when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, completely oblivious to all of the hidden sugar. I know how difficult it is to find a tub of yoghurt, a box of cereal, or even muesli bars, that have less than 10g of sugar per 100g. Sugar is even hidden in things it shouldn’t be, like bread and canned vegetables.
A sugar tax is only going to penalise people for the treat items that they enjoy alongside a healthy diet. Personally, I’d much rather see some pressure being placed at the source of this problem. It’s time that food companies are made to be more transparent about all of the sugar that is hidden in their seemingly “healthy” products.
It shouldn’t be that hard to find a damn muesli bar…