Consumption studies taxing junk food, a measure praised by the health sector that will provoke controversy
A diet that relatively often includes saturated fats, processed industrial products, added sugars, and ultrafine flour collects a health tax that is difficult to pay in the medium term. But the costs you bear will also be economic: poor eating will be more expensive. The new Minister of Consumption Alberto Garzón announced this this week. He announced the need to take measures of a different nature against less healthy foods and will publish the outlines of his department’s strategy in “two or three weeks”.
It is clear that what is known as “junk food” is at the heart of the new government’s goal. Target? It works against the spread of obesity, already classified as an epidemic, and against other diseases it causes. It is a new evil endemic to the whole of developed Western society. And in Spain, the latest published official study speaks of 25% of the obese or overweight population. Among the measures cited are more training for the population and better information, for example through food labeling. But the one that resonated the most was different: taxing less healthy food. He did not specify. He only said that it was a measure that they considered “studying”. However, due to a lack of data and the experience of other European countries, sweet drinks are at the forefront of the debate.
is the percentage of calories that the population in Spain would reduce with 20% taxes on sweet drinks. According to family doctors, the average weight would drop by 725 grams a year.
Since 2018, added sugar in beverages above 5 g / 100 ml has been taxed at 23 cents and above 8 g / 100 ml at 31 cents.
Since 2012, it is 11 cents / 1.5 liters of sweet drink. Salt and spices in food are also taxed.
The rate is 2 cents / l if the added sugar exceeds 8 g / ml from 2012.
Since 2017, the regional government has been paying taxes of 0.08 cents. for 5 to 8 grams of added sugar per 100 ml. and 12 cents. if it exceeds 8 g / ml.
The food industry reacted quickly to the minister’s statement of intent. Mauricio García de Quevedo, CEO of the Federation of the Food and Beverage Industry (FIAB), told the newspaper that “there has never been such a safe and varied range of products adapted to citizens’ tastes, needs and purchasing power”, but expressed his rejection of tax measures. “There is no scientific evidence that these types of measures are effective because the tax system does not change habits,” he said. In his opinion, the sole purpose of these measures is the collection of taxes and more advocacy for training and consumer information, for which it is suitable for cooperation with the new government in everything necessary.
The medical community thinks the opposite: from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has always advocated taxation as an effective way to reduce obesity, to family physicians. The latter are blunt: “A tax could help reduce the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the population in the medium term.”
Rodrigo Córdoba, coordinator of the Group for Health Education and Health Promotion of the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine (Semfyc), is convinced that the introduction of sweet drinks into the diet is one of the elements that have significantly contributed to the increase in obesity. “A can of soda has 35 grams of sugar and equals 140 calories,” he says. What are they based on in defense of the tax? “According to WHO reports, simple weight gain is a risk factor for other diseases, such as diabetes.” And they cite tobacco as an example. “For every price increase of 1%, total demand (consumption and prevalence) decreases with a decrease of 0.37% for adults and 0.74% for young people,” they recall.
Another key measure for the new government is to improve food labeling. Similarly, members of the Spanish Scientific Society for Nutrition and Nutrition (Sedyn) are calling for priority to be given to the implementation of Nutriscore, which catalogs products at five levels from green to red in order to identify its nutritional quality. This method of labeling already exists, but is not yet mandatory for companies. The government has taken other measures, such as a plan to reduce the amount of added sugar in food, which has already been voluntarily joined by 20 federations and whose results are planned for analysis and publication by the end of 2020, according to Health.
Results of two years of experience in Catalonia
Since June 2017, Catalonia has been collecting a tax on sweet drinks. From May to December of the same year, EUR 22.7 million was collected. The following year, they almost doubled. In any case, the authorities aimed to reduce the impact on the health of the population. In this short time, according to a study by the International University of Barcelona, the consumption of this type of food has decreased by 2%. “The impact is only visible in the long run,” warns the medical community to defend the measures.