The amount of sugar in soft drinks has fallen by almost a third with the introduction of the “sugar tax”, a report revealed today.
Figures from Public Health England revealed a 28.8 per cent drop since 2017 in the amount of sugar in sweetened and fizzy drinks.
Campaigners attribute the fall – surpassing the 20 per cent target – to last year’s introduction of the levy, which adds 24p a litre on high-sugar drinks and led to drinks manufacturers changing their recipes.
But today’s findings also reveal that elsewhere the industry has done little to remove sugar from foods, such as cakes and biscuits, which have so far escaped the charge — adding to pressure on Boris Johnson to expand it across other foods.
Previously, the Prime Minister has aired his opposition to “sin taxes”.
Today’s report, PHE’s second annual update on efforts to get manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of food voluntarily, found a 2.9 per cent reduction per 100g of food consumed at home since 2015. The target is 20 per cent by 2020. There was a fall of 4.9 per cent in food in restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Some categories showed greater progress. Own-brand yoghurts and fromage frais and breakfast cereals have reduced sugar by 10.3 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “The report shows a mixed picture. Encouragingly, some businesses have made good progress in reducing sugar but some businesses and categories have made very little or none. We know the public wants the food industry to make food healthier. It is clear this can be done, but we urge the whole of the food and drink industry to keep up the momentum to help families make healthier choices.”
Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “The latest figures crown the Soft Drinks Industry Levy as the indisputable champion of the Government’s child obesity and sugar reduction programmes.
“It’s great to see the drinks category has smashed targets whilst other categories remain way off track in relation to the 20 per cent by 2020 ambition.
“The levy is also raising an estimated £340 million a year, which is money badly needed for investment in children’s health. This shows yet again that regulation is working where voluntary efforts are failing.”
Katharine Jenner, of Action on Sugar, said it was “shameful that other manufacturers are dragging their heels” and doing little to help reduce the growing problem of childhood obesity.
She said: “However, the Government should be proud that they were brave enough to introduce the soft drinks levy which has been remarkable.” She called for it to be extended to milkshakes.