The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that over-consumption of free sugars is a major contributor to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay and free sugars are not essential nutrients for human health.
It claims that in the current food environment, it is very easy to consume too many free sugars. According to latest Eurostat estimates, 51.6 % of the EU’s population (18 and over) was overweight in 2014.
WHO insists that taxing sugar is an effective way to have a positive health impact. On the other hand, the industry emphasizes that there is no concrete evidence supporting this claim and says that product reformulation, among other intervention, could bring the desired results.
In this Special Report, EURACTIV will analyse the existing challenges policymakers face when it comes to sugar taxes in the EU as well as the several initiatives that have been taken ranging from food reformulation to the school level.
Education about balanced diets brings tangible results according to the vending machines lobby, while parental organisations say lawmakers should insist on good habits to tackle childhood obesity, rather than regulation.
The industry believes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has no evidence to back its claim that sugar taxes are an effective way to improve public health. Instead, the industry says, taxes only lead consumers to cheaper brands with similar or even higher calorie content, which may undermine any positive health outcome.
Following an EU call to reformulate food products in order to tackle rising obesity across Europe, the Association of Greek Soft Drinks Industries (SEVA) recently launched an initiative to reduce sugar in its products by 10%.
Product reformulation, rather than taxes, has brought tangible results for public health, according to Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the main trade association for the food and drink industry.
The European Commission launched the Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle a year ago, mostly to address rising obesity in the EU and promote physical activity, and it has already produced “concrete results”, Tibor Navracsics, the commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, told EURACTIV.com.