All posts by Michael Viggars


British Soft Drinks Association sponsor fringe meeting at Labour Conference about tackling obesity

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Members of the GULP team hand out toothbrushes and tell Labour Conference: ‘Tax the Can and help people to Give Up Loving Pop’

Today, Monday 26 September, Food Active, a North West based healthy weight campaign, is handing out free toothbrushes to Labour Party Conference delegates and confronting the soft drinks industry’s attempts to block a sugary drinks tax.  This activity is in response to the British Soft Drinks Association’s sponsorship of a fringe meeting about tackling obesity, and their lobbying at the Conference and to MPs to stop the Government’s proposed Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Robin Ireland, organiser of Food Active’s ‘Give Up Loving Pop’ initiative, said:

“The British Soft Drinks Association’s propaganda machine is not welcome in our city, or anywhere else in the North West. Public health directors in the North West have called for strong measures that would help tackle the high rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and dental decay. Families and community groups tell us they want more help to ‘give up loving pop’, and that’s what a sugary drinks tax would do.”

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of Children’s Food Campaign, said:

“We are in Liverpool today to support local health campaigners, who are trying to counteract the big money and slick spin of corporate lobbyists. Coca Cola and other major brands seem intent on putting their short-term profits above children’s health and the NHS’s finances. These companies are trying to defeat sensible, effective measures which would make healthier choices cheaper and the norm. Soft drinks still are the number one source of sugar in children’s diets. That’s why it’s time to Tax the Can.”


Restaurant sector sugar tax funds free drinking fountains across the UK

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Over £50,000 money raised from a voluntary tax on sugary drinks in restaurants across the UK will be used to open water fountains in parks, schools, youth groups and even a BMX club in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

The funds are being allocated by the Children’s Health Fund, launched in 2015 by food and farming charity Sustain and funded by a voluntary 10p levy on drinks with added sugar in over 130 of the UK’s leading restaurants, cafes and coffee shops.

The Fund today announced that it has made awards to 26 organisations around the UK that will help to improve children’s access to tap water. Campaigners hope that access to free drinking water will encourage young people to drink alternatives to unhealthy sugary drinks. Soft drinks are the largest single source of sugar in children’s diets, accounting for almost a third of their sugar intake.

The news comes after the Government announced a national sugary drinks tax which will be in place in 2018.

John Vincent, Founder of LEON one of the first participating restaurant chains, said:

“I believe that our addiction to sugar is making us sick and costing the NHS billions every year. Our children are consuming far too much sugar and even one can of a fizzy drink takes them over their recommended daily intake. We introduced the sugar levy in LEON to show we could use soft drinks to raise money and help fix the problem they’re causing.

“I’m really pleased that in nine months we’ve managed to raise enough to give thousands of children access to free, healthy water and also persuaded lots of LEON customers to choose healthier alternatives. Just think what the Government can achieve when it introduces a national tax and invests that back in our children’s health.”

Gloria Davies-Coates, Children’s Health Fund manager, said:

“We are delighted to be able to provide access to drinking water for our children and young people across the UK. The Children’s’ Health Fund is still new so to be able to have this level of impact from our first funding round is wonderful. We hope other restaurants will come on board so we can help improve more children’s diets across the UK.”

Jamie Oliver, children’s food campaigner and celebrity chef said:

“When I launched the Children’s Health Fund and the levy on sugary sweetened drinks last year, my plan was always to use the money to help children all over the UK to have access to fresh food and water. I’m delighted that we’ve now raised enough money to give grants to 26 projects all over the country, all helping kids get access to clean drinking water. I’m also very proud to say that the next lot of funding is going to tackle holiday hunger. This truly is a tax for good.”

The next round of funding, focusing on improving food provision within kids’ holiday clubs, will open for applications in July 2016.

George Osborne 1

Government to introduce Sugar Tax

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George Osborne has taken the first tentative steps in addressing the UK’s childhood obesity crisis by announcing plans for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The levy, which will start in April 2018, is aimed at high-sugar drinks which are popular among children and young people. The tax will consist of two bands – one for total sugar content above 5g per 100ml and a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

Fizzy drinks such as Red Bull, Lucozade Energy and Coca-Cola will fall under the higher rate of tax whereas the lower rate would catch drinks such as Dr. Pepper, Fanta and Sprite. Some tonic waters may also be affected. Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded and the smallest producers will have an exemption from the scheme.

Robin Ireland, Director of the Give Up Loving Pop campaign, said:

“We are delighted that the Government has decided to introduce a Sugar Tax. Food Active, together with regional Directors of Public Health, have been calling for a Sugar Tax since the north-west based campaign was first set up in 2013.

“Our Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) campaign was commissioned specifically to raise awareness of the health harms associated with over-consumption of sugary drinks.

“Research has shown that soft drinks are the largest single source of sugar in our children’s diets, accounting for some 40% of all sugar consumed by young people. Whilst the most obvious consequence of over-consumption of sugary drinks is tooth decay, excess sugar can also lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

“The Sugar Tax is a victory for Food Active’s ‘Give Up Loving Pop’ campaign and all our regional and national colleagues who have been advocating for such a measure. Let this be the first step in a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy to address the childhood obesity crisis.”

The tax is expected to raise £520 million a year and will be used to boost school sport, fund breakfast clubs at 1,600 schools in England and allow many secondary schools to extend their day – a possible sticking point for many in public health who feel the revenue generated would be better served elsewhere.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular health at Queen Mary University of London, argues that the creation of a powerful new nutritional watchdog to replace the now defunct Food Standards Agency is of paramount importance, rather than increasing sport in schools.

Whilst the benefits of being physically active are well known, MacGregor, chief executive of Action on Sugar, argued:

“The most effective way to tackle obesity is to reformulate products so that we get down [levels of] sugar, the way we’ve done with salt reduction.”

Manufacturers will have to choose whether to absorb the cost of the new levy or to pass it on to consumers. Either way, it is likely that soft drinks companies will continue to, and even accelerate reformulation of their products as there is now a greater fiscal incentive to do so.

However, some corners of public health have highlighted that the Chancellor has opened himself up to lobbying in the two intervening years. Hopefully the threat of Jamie Oliver getting more ‘ninja’ is enough of a deterrent.

I’ll have a large caramel latte please. Oh really, 6 teaspoons of sugar?! On second thoughts...

Staggering amount of sugar found in your morning coffee

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Hot flavoured drinks should be an “occasional treat” and are not for everyday consumption according to new research from campaign group Action on Sugar.

With an estimated 1.7 billion cups of coffee sold each year in the UK from over 18,000 outlets and one in five of the population visiting a coffee shop daily, Action on Sugar today warns of the dangerously high sugar content of certain hot beverages found in many high street coffee shop chains. Read More