15 February, 2017
Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker today dismissed a study from the University of Melbourne calling for the taxation of fat, salt and sugar in a huge range of food and drink products, as a means to address the nation’s expanding waistline.
“This latest study is beyond belief,” Geoff Parker said. “We already have a tax on most items in the supermarket that exempts fresh foods: it’s called the GST. The results of this study seem to be calling for another GST. If that’s the case, then let’s have that debate,” Mr. Parker said.
“It’s disappointing that in 2017, the only solution being put forward to address a complex problem like obesity is taxes, taxes and more taxes.
“This paper acknowledges that taxing food and drink is fundamentally regressive in that it hurts those who can least afford it, yet calls for a suite of new taxes targeting most products on the supermarket shelf, including ice cream. Clearly this study lacks any real-world analysis.
“On the one hand, the authors argue that the financial stress caused by five new food and drink taxes can be counterbalanced by subsidising fruit and vegetables. Yet, on the other hand, they concede that a discounting incentive could lead to an ‘overall increase in dietary measures such as saturated fat, sodium, or total energy intake.’
“Ironically, the report also found that a sugar-sweetened beverage tax led to a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as being the least cost-effective tax and providing the smallest health gains.
“If tax and subsidy interventions increase grocery prices and discourage healthy eating, why would anyone want them introduced?
“With the cost of living in Australia already at an all-time high, the last thing families need is another five grocery taxes added to their weekly shop. Taxes don’t teach healthy habits.” 2
Mr. Parker also said that the economic model fails to account for a variety of product innovations already taking place in the food and beverage industry, and does not consider the dire consequences these new taxes will have on local jobs and the economy.
“The authors state that product reformulation could have a 20% health benefit gain yet fail to take into account that this is already occurring, particularly in the beverage industry, in the absence of any discriminatory taxes,” Mr. Parker said.
“In addition, this study doesn’t consider the impact a suite of new taxes will have on industry, putting local businesses and jobs at risk. The introduction of a soda tax in Mexico in 2014, for instance, led to 3,000 job losses and soda consumption returned to pre-tax levels by mid-2015, thereby having no impact on public health.”
MEDIA CONTACT: William Roberts – 0431 318 893