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Sugary Drinks

Food industry not convinced by sugar tax, but neither are dentists

While food industry representatives say that a tax would hit consumers, dentists question the health benefits of it.

THE FOOD AND Drink Industry of Ireland (FDII) has come out against a proposed tax on certain food and drink products – the so-called ‘sugar tax’ – with dentists also expressing some scepticism about the idea.

The FDII, an IBEC representative group for the food and drink industry, was responding to speculation that a sugar tax could be introduced in the forthcoming budget.

The Irish Independent reported yesterday that a 10 per cent excise duty on certain food and drink products with high sugar content could be introduced in next month’s Budget in order to tackle obesity and raise revenue.

The FDII said that such a measure would have no health benefits and would hit already hard-pressed consumers.

Director Paul Kelly said: “An additional tax on sugar or soft drinks would leave Irish consumers out of pocket, paying one of the highest tax rates in Europe.

“The impact would be highly regressive, with a disproportionate impact on low-income families that spend a higher proportion of income on food.

Kelly pointed to the Danish government’s recent decision to scrap its ‘fat tax’, a measure which levied a charge on foods high in saturated fat but which was scrapped after just a year with consumers increasingly travelling to Sweden and Germany where prices were lower.

Dentists have also expressed some scepticism as to the benefits of any potential tax.

While the Irish Dental Association (IDA) said that some of the money raised from the tax should go towards an oral healthcare programme it expressed doubts about its benefits.

The IDA said that it was “logical that a proportion of any monies raised should be allocated to dental care” but dentist and food scientist Dr Michael Crowe said that he was not convinced of the overall merits of the idea based on the national consumption data.

He said this did not show a correlation between increased consumption of soft drinks and obesity.

“From a dental perspective it is clear that a reduction in the frequency and volume of intake of any sugary drink or food may help in reducing the risk of dental caries,” he said.

“As sugar sweetened beverages are poor in nutrients, recommendations to limit their intake would generally appear to be important for the promotion of good nutrition. What is clear is that we need to reduce our consumption of all sugary drinks.

“So reducing consumption is not the issue, finding the best way to achieve that is.”

Poll: Should Ireland introduce a sugar tax?

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