Source: New Zealand Herald, 13 October 2016
The UN health agency today recommended that countries use tax
policies to increase the price of sugary drinks like soft drinks,
sport drinks and even 100 per cent fruit juices as a way to fight
obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
The World Health Organisation, in a statement timed for World
Obesity Day, said that the prevalence of obesity worldwide more
than doubled between 1980 and 2014, when nearly 40 per cent of
people globally were overweight.
In a 36-page report on financial policy and diet, the WHO also
cited "strong evidence" that subsidies to reduce prices for fresh
fruits and vegetables can help improve diets. It said that tax
policies that lead to a 20 per cent increase in the retail prices
of sugary drinks would result in a proportional reduction in
Drawing on lessons from campaigns to fight tobacco use, the WHO
says imposing or increasing taxes on sugary drinks could help lower
consumption of sugars, bringing health benefits and more income for
governments such as to pay for health services.
The health agency has long recommended that people keep intake
of sugar to less than 10 per cent of their total energy needs.
"Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary
drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people
suffering from obesity and diabetes," says Dr Douglas Bettcher, who
heads WHO's department for preventing non-communicable
"If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce
suffering and save lives."
The World Health Organisation receives funding from Bloomberg
Philanthropies, which supports raising taxes on sugary drinks to
The International Council of Beverages Associations, which
represents Coke and Pepsi, said that it is disappointed that the
"discriminatory taxation solely of certain beverages" is being
proposed as a solution to the "very real and complex challenge of
WHO officials say that the US is no longer the leading consumer
of sugar-sweetened beverages - Chile and Mexico are now in front.
They also noted rapid increase in consumption in China and
sub-Saharan Africa. At least three in five adolescents in countries
including Chile, Argentina and Algeria consume soft drinks daily,
compared with 20 to 40 per cent in the US and much of Europe.
"Taxation policies can be a very important tool - just one tool
among many - but a very important tool for the reduction of
sugar-sweetened beverages," said Dr Francesco Branca, who heads the
WHO's Department for Nutrition and Health. He pointed to
"pioneering" efforts by Michael Bloomberg, during his time as Mayor
of New York, and other US officials to reduce sugar
The report was based on information collected in May last year,
but the WHO is coming forward with its recommendation because the
evidence of the link between tax policy and reduced consumption
coupled with health benefits has only recently emerged, said Temo
Waqanivalu, co-ordinator of the WHO's department for the prevention
of non-communicable diseases.
Waqanivalu said that "discussion is ongoing" with companies
behind such beverages on efforts to reduce sugar consumption.