Food Standards Scotland urges sugar tax plan

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Media captionFood Standards Scotland has also recommended restricting the promotion and advertising of certain foods

Scotland's new food body has urged the Scottish government to make plans for the introduction of a tax on sugar.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said the food industry should be given 12 months to come up with alternative ways of reducing sugar consumption.

A report from FSS said radical change was needed to address Scottish eating habits.

Other suggestions include curbs on the promotion and advertising of certain foods, and portion size.

Scotland has been missing healthy eating targets for 15 years.

The report suggests that while the consumption of sugary fizzy drinks has fallen by a fifth, consumers have made up for it by eating sweets, biscuits, cakes and pastries.

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Image caption Fizzy drink consumption is down but Scotland's sweet tooth has persisted

The organisation, which was set up 10 months ago to advise the government on food and nutrition, recommends ministers "actively consider how a sugar tax may be introduced and at what rate".

"We're very aware there is no single silver bullet solution to reducing our obesity and overweight problem," said chief executive Geoff Ogle.

"Exercise and being more active plays a vital role too. But we do believe that the measures we are proposing are vital pieces of the jigsaw."

"Fifteen years from now we need to be able to look back and say this was the point where we started to turn round the current trend: a trend which could see Scotland with adult obesity levels at 40% by 2030 unfortunately, it's that stark."

The Scottish Parliament could vote to introduce a sugar tax. However, it would need the approval of Westminster.

Ministers are also concerned it could be caught up in the same legal wrangling which has delayed the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.

Jobs threat

The Food and Drink Federation said the industry wanted to play its part in a solution to obesity but that legislation might affect jobs.

"Punishing and legislating against an industry that employs 34,000 people in Scotland - 19% of all our manufacturing jobs - would be a retrograde step, in particular when there is no evidence of the long-term effectiveness of additional taxes on single nutrients, foods or drinks," said chief executive David Thomson.

"Instead, Food Standards Scotland and the Scottish government should work with industry in reduce portion sizes, to reformulate products and to educate consumers about the food they are eating.

"Our industry has a strong record of doing just this on salt, on waste and on portion size."

A report issued by Food Standards Scotland at the end of last year highlighted that the Scottish diet is too high in calories, fats, sugars and salt, and too low in fibre, fruit and vegetables

It said that poor eating patterns were ingrained, with most Scots thinking their diet is healthier than it actually is.

Two out of three Scottish adults are overweight or obese.

Research suggests that more than 14% of adults and nearly 16% of children's daily energy intake comes from sugar, three times the new recommended daily intake.

'Turning point'

The FSS report was welcomed by Obesity Action Scotland which said it marked a "turning point" in the campaign to improve the Scottish diet but said it should go further in targeting advertising and marketing.

Spokesperson Lorraine Tulloch said: "Now is the time for change, let's do this together. If we are to turn the tide on the crisis we face with obesity and overweight in Scotland we need such bold actions.

"I would urge Scottish ministers to commit to progress these actions and to implement the change we need. We need industry to take the steps necessary to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice for consumers."

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