VIEW FROM THE HOUSE
WE EXPECT to hear a mass of statistics presented during the Budget, but there were some surprising ones – about the amount of sugar consumed by children – when the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked last month about children’s health and health care.
Our five-year-old children are consuming their body weight in sugar every year. Within a generation, over half of all boys and 70 per cent of girls could be overweight or obese, the health experts predict.
Obesity is a long term health problem which can lead into cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The negative impacts affect not only the health of the individual but they also add up to a massive £27bn cost to the UK economy.
Drinks sweetened with sugar are a major contributor to childhood obesity. Another of those key facts from the Budget speech: a typical can of cola will have nine teaspoons of sugar in it. Some drinks may have the equivalent of 13. That can be more than double the recommended intake of added sugar.
The Chancellor wants to see the drinks industry take action to reduce this source of sugar in a child’s diet. What he proposes is called in the headlines a ‘sugar tax’, but it is in fact a levy on the producers and importers of drinks with added sugar. It will be introduced over the next two years and it is designed to encourage the manufacturers to reformulate their products, reducing the amount of added sugar and steering consumers to lower sugar alternatives. Consumer education to reduce portion sizes is also important.
The levy is expected to raise £520 million in its first year. Crucially, in England the money will be used to double the primary school PE and sport premium to £320 million a year from September 2017. This will help our schools to support a healthier and more active lifestyle for pupils.