Evidence from Mexico shows sugar tax won't be a cure for calorie intake, according to a new study from the TaxPayers' Alliance

 
Francesca Washtell
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The sugar levy was a surprise announcement in Osborne's March Budget (Source: Getty)

Evidence from Mexico’s sugar-sweetened beverage tax shows the UK's sugar levy is unlikely to have any "meaningful impact" on calorie intake, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) has claimed.

If the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages had the same effect in the UK as it did in Mexico, average UK daily soft drink consumption would fall by between 5.4 millilitres and 15.0 millilitres per day.

Calorie intake would fall by between 2.1 and 5.8 calories per day, with a median daily decrease of just 4.6 calories. This is equivalent to just 4.9 per cent of a slice of Tesco Wholemeal bread or 6.5 per cent of a typical apple, the TPA said in a research note released today.

Read more: A spoonful of sugar tax can help fizzy drinks go down

The TPA's research drew together the results of three studies on the one peso per litre tax Mexico introduced on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2014.

The think tank added that as the Mexican tax raised more revenue than was initially expected, it shows the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages did not fall as much as predicted.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

It is astonishing that the government is pressing ahead with this pernicious tax when the evidence clearly suggests that it will simply not affect consumption in any meaningful way.

As with any regressive tax, this will only raise living costs for hard-pressed families, already struggling with big tax bills. Politicians must look at the evidence and ignore the High Priests of the Nanny State in the public health lobby, and abolish the sugar tax before it is too late.

This is the second recent attack launched by the TPA on the government's sugar levy, which will come into force in March 2018 after a surprise announcement in the March Budget.

Last month, the TPA slammed the "bungled" tax and claimed it will "hit the poorest families hardest" while having little impact on sugar intake.

However, health campaigners have responded to the TPA's claims that the Mexican tax has had little effect

"Recent research published in January 2015 by an American professor who advisers the Mexican government, Barry Popkin, confirms that the tax "was associated with reductions in purchases of taxed beverages and increases in purchases of untaxed beverages". In short, the tax is working in the way it was intended," Tam Fry, a spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, said.

"There is not a month that goes by now without some country or city in the world looking to tax sugar-sweetend beverages and they wouldn't be doing that if Mexico was a failure."

Read more: Public consultation could introduce sugar advertising crackdown

Other campaigners, such as Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist and researcher at Action on Sugar, have claimed the problem with Mexico's tax is that it hasn't been extensive enough.

"The tax is quite small so it's not having a big effect. This just demonstrates that the tax needs to be higher to have a bigger impact," Hashem said.

"We know that from the tobacco tax that it didn't have the impact needed initially because it was small, but now after so many years of incrementally increasing the tax it's reduced smoking significantly. The sugar levy should be above 20 per cent and possibly higher to significantly reduce intake."

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