A report released yesterday as part of the new National Food Strategy has sparked concern that the UK's nanny state could be getting out of control. Headed up by Henry Dimbleby, the Prime Minister’s food tsar, the report contains several radical proposals that could see the UK become the first country to introduce a tax on sugary and salty foods.
The suggestions come as the result of concerns about the pressure the NHS is coming under because of the nation's eating habits and unhealthy diets. In addition to the fat tax proposals, the report also suggests that GPs be allowed to prescribe vegetables, fruit, and even cooking classes to encourage healthier eating across the nation.
The aim of the new proposals
After what has been a tough 16 months for the NHS due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the health service continues to be put under strain by other health issues. One of the key ones that the government is keen to tackle is diet-related diseases and obesity, which are preventable in many cases through a healthier diet and lifestyle.
The proposals aim to encourage people to make healthier choices when it comes to food, which could positively impact their health and reduce the strain on the NHS. In addition, it is hoped that the proposals will encourage manufacturers and companies to take steps such as using healthier ingredients in recipes and reducing their portion sizes.
According to the report, more than half of over 45s in the UK have some sort of diet-related condition. In addition, data indicates there are 64,000 deaths in England every year resulting from poor diets and that these issues are costing taxpayers around £74 billion.
As part of the new proposals, there would be a new tax of £3 per kilogram of sugar and £6 per kilogram of salt sold on a wholesale basis to restaurants, catering firms, and for use in processed foods. A sugar tax is already in place for soft drinks, having been introduced in 2018.
Impact on households
While the report is aimed at encouraging healthier lifestyles and reducing the strain on the NHS, there would be a significant impact on family finances if it does go ahead.
The fat tax could cost the average individual £60 per year more for food, which means that the annual increase could be staggering for larger families. Collectively, it is thought that the taxes could add £3.4 billion to family shopping bills.
Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, commented on the issue. He said, "Obesity and food is very much about poverty, and we need measures to tackle poverty and to help people to make choices they need to make."