An independent review of food policy in England has suggested salt and sugar should be taxed – and vegetables should be prescribed by the NHS.
The review, commissioned by the government in 2019, says historic reforms of the food system are needed to protect the NHS, improve the health of the nation and save the environment. It describes the Covid-19 pandemic as a “painful reality check” which has revealed the scale of food-related ill-health.
The study, headed by businessman Henry Dimbleby, says these new taxes could extend the availability of free school meals and support better diets among the poorest. The National Food Strategy has also suggested GPs could issue prescriptions for fruit and vegetables to encourage healthy eating.
Mr Dimbleby, who co-founded the fast food chain Leon said:
“Our high obesity rate has been a major factor in the UK’s tragically high death rate of the last 18-months. We must now seize the moment to build a better food system for our children and grandchildren.
The report found that in England alone, poor diet contributes to more than 64,000 deaths a year and costs the economy £74billion. It claims more than half of over-45s now live with diet-related health conditions.
The CEO of the Behavioural Insights Team, David Halpern said he believed taxing sugar and salt could “act as a double-nudge”. He compared the concept to the sugar levy on soft drinks, introduced in April 2018 and which drove manufacturers to remove sugar from products through reformulation. That movement resulted in a 33% reduction of sugar added to soft drinks while at the same time sales also rose.
The government has promised to respond with a White Paper within 6-months.