An online petition calling for a tax on sugar has gained enough signatures to be debated in Parliament — 149,942 as of the writing of this article — meaning government MPs have to have the debate on the problem of too much sugar in the food that is consumed leading to health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes and the related condition called obesity. One overriding cause of obesity is the overconsumption of raw, purified sugar, which is particularly high in fast food, i.e. “Take Aways,” which is food that is fast and convenient, but rich in fat and sugar.
In response to the petition’s success, the government, which plans to debate the issue in 57 days, has issued a statement in regards to the suggestion that an additional sugar tax on foods be used to increase funding to the National Health Service (NHS) for treating obesity-related diseases.
“The Government keeps all taxes under review, with decisions being a matter for the Chancellor as part of the Budget process.”
— Prospect Magazine (@prospect_uk) October 30, 2015
According to the Times, comparison of the overconsumption of sugar and smoking is a right one, and people who indulge in too much sugar should be approached by their GP over its damaging health consequence in much the same way as those people who smoke. The National Obesity Forum states its position clearly.
“GPs should be trained to tell people when they are too fat and the NHS needs to offer better weight-loss programmes if the country is not to be crippled by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other weight-related conditions.”
It is not only governments and health professionals who are bringing awareness to the issue. Celebrity British Chef Jamie Oliver, who has previously campaigned to improve school meals, has “declared war” on sugar in his one-hour Channel 4 documentary, Jamie’s Sugar Rush, in which Jamie describes the real-life effects of a high-sugar diet, such as the 700 amputations per year in the U.K. due to diabetes, as well as facts such as that in the U.S., one-third of all children are obese. The show provides evidence that a sugar tax might help will also be shown in terms of Mexico reducing its diabetes significantly through a “soda tax.” Jamie Oliver also appeared before the U.K.’s Health Select Committee.
— Dr AseemMalhotra(@DrAseemMalhotra) October 28, 2015
The evidence of the health consequences of sugar is overwhelming, and the call to do something about it is ever greater with the facts of the case and celebrities backing action on the issue. The fact is that it is expensive to treat obesity-related conditions, and some question whether those who do not choose a high sugar diet should have to pay the health costs of those people who do choose a high sugar diet.
With the finding that statistically, most people do not believe it is their responsibility to know what foods are good for them, choosing instead just to eat whatever is cheapest and most convenient, Claudia Strauss, Managing Director of FMCG, explains why, despite knowing the health consequences, people still choose to eat diets high in sugar.
“There continues to be confusion as to what being healthy really means and what foods you should and shouldn’t eat… It is clear that sugar is the villain of the piece [but] there is still the need and, more importantly, the desire for more education around what is truly good for us.”
[Image by Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images]