22 December, 2015
A SOFT DRINK TAX WILL NOT FIX AUSTRALIA’S PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM
A recent report calling on a sugar tax to be introduced in Australia fails to address the fundamental issues, says the Australian Beverages Council.
The report, Overweight, obesity and cardiovascular disease – past, present and future, released by The Australian Heart Foundation and Deakin University, has sought to address the ongoing health challenges we will face in the future due to obesity related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
“Calls made by both organisations for the introduction of a tax on soft drinks in particular as a method of confronting these issues is misguided and without basis while also being wholly ineffective in addressing the core issue of our obesity problem”, says Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council.
“For instance there is no conclusive evidence that demonstrates any link between the contraction of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes and the consumption of soft drinks. In Australia, nearly 1 in 2 purchases of soft drink is a low or no calorie option,” he said.
“To single out one ingredient as some kind of unique contributor to obesity is misguided and confusing for people. A tax on one food or drink should not be promoted as the solution to poor dietary habits, when evidence from other countries prove that this type of tax does not deliver the long term societal changes they are designed to,” said Parker.
In Mexico, there is no solid evidence indicating that the introduction of a similar tax is having any tangible impact on obesity, but what is apparent is that two thirds of the tax is being generated by the poorest households. This has led the Mexican Government proposing to halve the rate of tax on soft drinks and work more closely with the industry on producing healthier products.
In Australia only 1.8% of the daily intake of kilojoules for adults comes from soft drinks.1 In fact, recent independent studies by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have shown the amount of sugar consumed through soft drinks has dropped while obesity continues to rise.
“A recent CSIRO secondary analysis of the Australian Health Survey looking at the role of beverages in the Australian diet found that soft drinks contributed just 4% of discretionary kilojoules for adults1. This compares to 18% from confectionary and chocolate, 13% from sweet biscuits and cake and 13% from alcohol1. A call for a tax on the 4% from soft drinks while ignoring the other significant contributors to discretionary kilojoules is perplexing and misguided, to say the least” Mr Parker said.
In terms of self-imposed industry regulation, the industry does not market regular kilojoule products to children under 12, has reformulated products to offer low and no-sugar varieties, has voluntarily displayed kilojoule information on the front of labels and has restricted sales of regular kilojoule soft drinks in schools.
“More needs to be done to ensure as a society we are properly addressing the health concerns of the community. It is important that all stakeholders have a voice in the debate to ensure the adopted tactics will have an actual impact. We have always encouraged greater open discussion between government, health groups and industry to find the most effective method of addressing the health issues of the country. A tax on a small and declining part of the diet is not a smart solution.” Parker concluded.
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For more information contact:
Geoff Parker, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Beverages Council, M: 0407 646 195
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Food and Nutrients, 2011-12, cat. no. 4364.0.55.007, viewed 2 August 2014, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Discretionary%20foods~700 these results are based on Day 1 Intake data only