Dental profession reacts to sugar tax announcement

17 March, 2016 / infocus
 

While the announcement of a sugar tax has been hailed as a positive step in the right direction, the news has received a mixed reaction from the dental profession.

Chancellor George Osborne revealed the plans in today’s budget, which will come into action from 2018. The levy will be based on the volume of sugar with two bands: those with 5g per 100ml and those with more than 8g per 100ml – pure fruit juices, milk-based drinks and small businesses will be excluded. The chancellor has claimed that the levy will raise £0.5 billion.

British Dental Association chair Mick Armstrong said: “Many were expecting half-measures from Government on sugar, so today’s announcement looks like progress.

We feel some of these funds could have been used to educate the public about preventing oral health problems

Dr Nigel Carter

“Britain’s sugar addiction is costing the health service billions, and it’s only right the drinks companies should make a fair contribution. Health professionals are confronting a preventable epidemic, and parents, government and the food industry all need play their part.

“Sugar is cheap, addictive and nutrient-free, and industry finally has a reason to start cutting the dose.”
However, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, was a bit more circumspect in his analysis of the news. He said: “While welcoming what is obviously a positive step in addressing the current children’s dental health crisis and ‘obesity epidemic’ we are facing in the UK we feel that the measures outlined do not go far enough and more pressure needs to be put on manufacturers.

“By implementing the levy on manufactures and not the consumer, pressure is now on companies to change their products. We now have to make sure that they do just this and not continue with their current models and pass the cost onto the consumer through price raises.

“Giving manufacturers two years to review their products and potentially reduce the amount of sugar in them is a positive move, and we now want to see food and drink manufacturers seriously evaluate their products with the aim reduce their sugar content or make it more obvious the amount of sugar in them.

“We are also happy to see the money raised by the levy go to towards school sports, but we feel some of these funds could have been used to educate the public about preventing oral health problems, which are some of the biggest health issues facing children in the UK.”

Fiona Sandom, president of the British Association of Dental Therapists, echoed Dr Carter’s views on the distribution of the revenue. She said: “The need for health education, especially about children’s dental health, is an issue which often gets overshadowed by the so-called childhood ‘obesity crisis’.

“Because more serious health problems can result from poor dental health, I would have preferred to see a significant proportion of the revenue put towards improving access to preventative dental health care, particularly in the more deprived areas of the UK.”

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