Thursday 12 January 2017 7:00 am

Forget the sugar tax, #DontTaxHealthy wants to incentivise healthy food by cutting VAT to 5 per cent

A new group wants to decrease the cost of obesity on the UK economy by cutting VAT on healthy options instead of punishing consumers with a "sugar tax". 

In the UK, 40 per cent of 18-34 year olds and 30 per cent of all ages said they can't afford to purchase healthy food and drink because it's more expensive than other products, YouGov research to be released today suggests.

This is a problem the charity #DontTaxHealthy says won't be fixed by the sugar tax, a soft drinks industry levy that has been criticised by industry bodies who say it will have minimal effect on sugar consumption and will disproportionately target poorer families.

Almost two-thirds of households, or 62 per cent, said they are very or fairly concerned about sugar consumption. That's up 41 per cent from the previous year.

Despite this, 58 per cent of women and 65 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese, NHS statistics show.

This means shoppers are concerned about the effects of sugar in their diet, but they're unable to afford to stop buying it, #DontTaxHealthy said.

Read more: The Food and Drink Federation has been asked to stop opposing the sugar tax

The campaign is urging the government to reduce the VAT to 5 per cent from the standard 20 per cent on all lower sugar food and drink to address the indirect cost and impact of obesity to the UK economy, which is estimated at £27bn per year.

#DontTaxHealthy was ​created by the founders of OPPO, a UK-based healthy ice cream company, and Sugarwise, the new certification for lower sugar food and drink.

“The government recently announced its sugar strategy, however it didn’t provide any real, tangible solutions," said Charlie and Harry Thuillier, #DontTaxHealthy campaign founders and OPPO ice cream owners.

Read more: Why banning sugary food advertising won't tackle obesity

Rend Platings, #DontTaxHealthy campaign co-founder and chief executive of Sugarwise, said lower VAT for healthy foods would also incentivise manufacturers to innovate and stock healthier products.