Pressure increasing for junk food taxes

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Sugar can be as harmful to health as alcohol or tobacco and should be restricted through additional taxes and other measures, according to doctors in the US.

In Ireland, the current Government last year said it was considering the introduction of extra taxes on fatty foods and sugary drinks. However, as yet no such measures have been introduced.

A consultation process has just begun in Ireland, however, on including calorie counts on menus in restaurants.

Scientists from the University of California say new taxes on foods high in sugar are needed to control excessive consumption.

Some countries have been introducing taxation measures in order to curb excess consumption of unhealthy foods. Denmark and Hungary have imposed a tax on foods high in saturated fat, and France has introduced a tax on soft drinks.

Now, researchers in the US are proposing similar policies for added sugar and sweeteners, due to concerns about the amount of sugar in people's diets.

Writing in the journal Nature, Prof Robert Lustig, a child obesity specialist, said governments needed to consider major new policies, such as taxes, restricting sales of sweet food and drinks at school, or even preventing children below a certain age from purchasing certain junk foods.

Last November, Health Minister James Reilly said he was holding discussions with the food and drinks industry on the issue of taxing fatty foods and sugary drinks. He said this was ‘absolutely under consideration’.

Dr Reilly also said at the time there had been a positive response from the food industry to his proposals to have calorie counting on fast food restaurant menus, and this may also be implemented in other restaurants.

No specific measures have as yet been implemented aimed at tackling the obesity problem.

However, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland today announced a national consultation to seek opinions on the best way of putting calorie information on menus in Ireland.

This follows Minister Reilly writing late last year to fast food outlets and cafes requesting that they consider including calories on their menus.

The consultation launched today by Dr Reilly is an opportunity for consumers and the food industry to give their views on how calories on menus can be best implemented in Ireland, according to the Authority.

A recent major report on child obesity revealed that 26% of nine-year-olds in Ireland are either overweight or obese.



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