Private Business Intermediaries

What you need to know about the Sugar Tax

15/06/2016 | By Freedom Health Insurance
Sugars found in food and drinks are known as ‘free sugars’. They are often added to food or naturally occur in drinks such as fruit juice. Whilst they are high in energy, there are some concerns over the effect of having too much sugar in our daily diets. (1)

One of the effects of consuming too much sugar is weight gain (2). Public Health England (PHE), in their October 2015 report, estimated that 25% of adults, 10% of 4-5 year olds, and 19% of 10-11 year olds are now obese (2). Weight gain also increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, some cancers and tooth decay (2).

Amongst the things that make up our daily diets, soft drinks (excluding fruit juices) have been found to be the largest source of sugar for 11-18 year olds – 29% of their daily sugar intake. 4-10 year old children’s sugar sources are soft drinks, as well as biscuits, pastries, puddings, breakfast cereals, fruit juices and confectionary, similar to 19-64 year olds. (2)

At the moment, the NHS recommends the following maximum sugar daily intake:
·        4-6 year olds should have no more than 19 grams (4-5 teaspoons)
·        7-10 year olds should have no more than 24 grams (5-6 teaspoons)
·        11+ year olds should have no more than 30 grams (6-7 teaspoons) (3)


According to Public Health England, promotions in shops are more common with products containing added sugar, such as cakes and carbonated drinks which do not only make products cheaper but they also encourage people to buy more and consume more of these sugary products (4). Products such as vegetables or milk, with naturally occurring sugar, are less likely to be given promotion prices in shops (4).

However, it is thought that an average household would be spending an extra £630 a year if they were to buy their annual selection of promoted produce at the regular price (4).

So finding a solution that will have an impact on the consumption of these sugary foods while limiting the effects on people’s shopping budgets is the real challenge here. 

Proposed Solutions

In July last year The British Medical Association (BMA) called for a tax to be introduced on beverages that have been sugar sweetened. In order for this to have an impact on sugary foods consumption, body weight and disease occurrence, the tax recommend is around 20% (5).

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in his 2016 budget, has proposed putting a tax on sugared drinks that contain over 5 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres. Higher rates will apply to drinks with 8 grams or above. This is said to be aimed at coming into effect in two years’ time. (6)

Louise Ansari, Director of Prevention of Type 2 diabetes at Diabetes UK, says she would like the Government to not only tax sugared food and drink, but to also take some other measures for encouraging healthy lifestyles such as placing restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children, introducing legislation to take out fats and sugars in food and reducing portion sizes. (7)


There is still an open debate about the benefits and disadvantages of a sugar tax, but for now, there seems to be enough evidence for the government to seriously consider the introduction of a two tier tax (one for drinks containing less than 5g of sugar per 100ml and a higher rate for those with more than 8g per 100ml) (6).

Related Articles
1.      NHS Choices. How does sugar in our diet affect our health? Available here
2.      PHE. Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action. Available here
3.      Analysis by Bazian, edited by NHS Choices. Controversial ‘sugar tax’ report is published. Available here
4.      PHE. Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action. Annexe 4. Available here
5.      British Medical Association BMA Food for thought: promoting healthy diets among children and young people. Available here
6.      The Guardian. Report on the Government’s 2016 Budget. Available here

7.      Diabetes UK. Article on proposed sugar tax backed by Jamie Oliver. Available here