Dr Dan Poulter adds his voice to calls for a sugar tax

Dr Dan Poulter believes there is a case for a tax on sugar.

Dr Dan Poulter believes there is a case for a tax on sugar. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk MP and former health minister Dr Dan Poulter has added his voice to calls for the government to introduce a “sugar tax” in a bid to reduce the rising tide of obesity.

It comes as the Star reveals the number of people aged under 18 being treated for obesity and overweight issues at Ipswich Hospital has almost doubled in a year. It rose from 33 in 2013/14 to 63 in 2014/15.

It has also emerged that a controversial report on sugar that was delayed by the Health Secretary recommends a “sugar tax” as part of a crackdown on childhood obesity.

The report was prepared for Public Health England and was not due to be released until the Government’s obesity strategy is published.

It says there should be a price increase of a minimum of 10% to 20% on high-sugar products like full-sugar soft drinks through the use of a tax or levy.

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It also calls for efforts to “reduce and rebalance” the number and type of price promotions on foods and to “significantly reduce opportunities to market and advertise high-sugar food and drink products to children and adults across all media including digital platforms and through sponsorship”.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Poulter said there were three major public health problems facing Britain: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity. Two of those were already being tackled by increasing tax levels.

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He said: “I don’t think increasing tax would be a ‘silver bullet’ to the problem, and there would certainly need to be care in drawing up the plans because it could affect some juices that contain natural fructose.

“But there is already VAT on junk food, so it should not be too difficult to come up with a workable scheme. I think there is now a compelling case for this kind of approach.”

The report was finally published on the same day that Downing Street confirmed that David Cameron did not read it before dismissing the idea.

A Number 10 spokesman made clear the Prime Minister does not want a sugar tax to feature in the Government’s national obesity strategy, telling reporters: “The Prime Minister’s view remains that he doesn’t see a need for a tax on sugar.”

Mr Cameron’s stance puts him at loggerheads with Essex- based TV chef Jamie Oliver, who has said he is “ready for a fight” with Government on the issue.

Only this week, Mr Oliver told the Commons Health Committee he was confident the Government had not “written off” introducing the tax. But the father of four now fears the soft drinks industry has put pressure on ministers to drop the plans.

Ipswich MP and current junior health minister Ben Gummer said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was considering all the options and would be outlining government strategy on the subject in due course.

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, said: “It is concerning to see the figures for those under 18 treated at Ipswich Hospital for illnesses related to being overweight or obese has risen in the last year.

“The Suffolk County Council public health team is working to support children and their families across Suffolk to reduce the amount of sugar and calories that are consumed.

“Live Well Suffolk can help support children and their families to understand more about healthy eating and how to build more physical activity into their lives.”

A spokesman for Ipswich Hospital, which released the figures under Freedom of Information laws, said: “We work hard with all our partners, GPs and dieticians to make sure we give anyone who has a significant challenge with their weight all of the help we can give.”

Call Live Well Suffolk on 01473 229292.

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