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The World Health Organisation Just Called for a Global Sugar Tax

A new report from WHO says that taxing sugary drinks by at least 20 percent would proportionally reduce consumption and obesity-related diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Photo via Flickr user omgponies2

Unless you've been hiding under a pile of quinoa for the last year, you'll have noticed that sugar has lost its sweet touch in the health world—even more so after it was exposed that a sugar industry body had been lobbying scientists to downplay the white stuff's health risks.

In a bid to tackle over-consumption of sugar—linked to obesity and related diseases like diabetes and cancer—the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for a global levy of at least 20 percent on all sugary drinks.

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The report, titled Fiscal policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Disease, was released yesterday and targets soft drinks as a way to lower overall intake of "added sugar" products across the world. It argues that sugary drinks contribute towards the consumption of "unnecessary calories in people's diets, particularly in the case of children, adolescents, and young adults."

WHO claims that the "reduced consumption of sugary drinks means lower intake of 'free sugars' and calories overall, improved nutrition and fewer people suffering from overweight, obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."

Mexico and Hungary have both already introduced taxes on products high in sugar, and the UK announced plans for a sugar tax on soft drinks to be introduced in the next couple of years (although exactly how much extra bob you'll have to pay for your pop is still TBA).

And as obesity becomes a global problem, perhaps a global policy is the solution.

Speaking to MUNCHIES, Jenny Rosborough of campaign group Action on Sugar said the WHO report was a step in the right direction. She said: "We would agree with what the World Health Organisation has to say. But our main message is still around that fact that this is still just one measure of many that needs to be taken."

However, not everyone's happy.

The UK's food and drink industry body (and long-term critic of Britain's sugar tax), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said in a statement to MUNCHIES: "To be effective, efforts to tackle the obesity challenge need to be backed by strong evidence. Wherever in the world additional taxes on food or drink have been tried, they have made little or no difference to calorie intake."

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The spokesperson added: "Food and drink companies take their responsibilities to their customers seriously. FDF members have a strong record of successfully voluntarily reformulating products in line with public health goals and consumer expectations."

The war on sugar wages on.