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Sugary drinks levy helps reduce children’s daily sugar consumption by half

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Health experts urge the new Labour Government to build on the success of the sugary drinks levy and extend it to other food and drink high in sugar.

A new study has found that children’s daily sugar consumption halved within a year of the sugary drinks levy being introduced, leading experts to call for it to be extended to other products which are high in sugar.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that the daily free sugar intake for children fell by about 4.8g, and by 10.9g for adults, within a year of the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. Free sugar consumption from soft drinks alone reduced by 3g per day for children and 5.2g for adults.

Despite these encouraging findings, both children and adults in the UK are still consuming too much sugar. Children are recommended not to have more than 24g of free sugars per day and adults not more than 30g, yet the intake for all age groups is about double the recommended limits. This high sugar consumption is leading to increasingly high levels of tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, various cancers and other illnesses.

Dr Nina Rogers, the lead author of the study, quoted in the Guardian, says:

“The findings of our study are encouraging and show that the UK soft drinks industry levy is linked to a significant reduction in daily sugar intake in adults and children. These results are consistent with previous research which show a reduction in household purchasing of sugar from soft drinks one year after adoption of the levy.”

Kate Howard, Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator at Sustain, says:

“We welcome this study which adds to the existing weight of evidence showing the resounding success that the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) has been, while voluntary measures continue to have a limited impact.

“All children should be able to access healthy food, no matter where they live, yet we’re flooded with food full of excess sugar and salt making this far from the reality. We’re excited that the new Government has expressed a clear intention to focus on prevention for improving health and would urge them to extend SDIL to other products if they want to take this seriously, as recommended in our Recipe for Change campaign." 

Recipe for Change is calling for a new levy on food manufacturers to reduce salt and sugar levels and make our food healthier, building on the calls for a salt and sugar tax in the National Food Strategy. Research commissioned by the campaign has shown that this could have a significant impact on our health, the economy and even the environment.

Read the new research here.

Published 10 Jul 2024

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