22nd August 2019

Brits have an association with sweet treats that goes back centuries, with classics like Bakewell tarts and roly-polys still available in supermarkets and bakeries not just here, but all over the world. But like all things, there comes a time that in order to survive, change is needed.

A new nationwide poll by the Oral Health Foundation has found the majority of Brits (54%) now support a ’pudding tax’.  The tax was particularly popular among younger people, with more than four-in-five (84%) under-35s expressing their support.

A proposed levy could include puddings and desserts, biscuits, chocolate and sweet confectionary.

The Oral Health Foundation is calling for government officials to act quickly by implementing a ‘pudding tax’ and stop Britain’s unhealthy association with sugar.

Here is why the charity believes a ‘pudding tax’ is needed:

Past success

In April 2018, the government brought in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, otherwise known as the sugar tax.  It applies to drinks with more than 8g of added sugar per 100ml.

The tax forced manufacturers to lower their sugar content or face a tax rate equivalent to 24p per litre.  As a result, many of them did.  So much so that the new levy brought £800m less than it was forecast to. 

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “The sugar tax, has been a significant success, not only for oral health, but wider health and wellbeing too.  In the long-term, products with less added sugar will mean a healthier population. It will also save the NHS billions every year.

“When it comes to sugar, 10% of a child's intake comes from soft drinks, but more than twice that comes from puddings, ice cream and sweets.  It means that replicating the model into a pudding tax is absolutely necessary.”

Voluntary regulation doesn’t work

As a population we are indulging in far more sugar than we need to.  This is true of both adults and children, with the latter consuming three times more than they should.  Latest government figures also show that by the age of ten, the average child has already exceeded the sugar intake of an 18-year-old.

Asking consumers to reduce their sugar consumption has proven extremely difficult and food manufacturers are highly unlikely to reformulate their products unprompted.

“Public Health England’s campaign to reduce the sugar content by a fifth by 2020 needs widespread support,” adds Dr Carter.

“The most effective way we can achieve this is with a pudding tax that increases pressure on manufacturers to reduce added sugar in some of the UK’s most popular snacks.”

A mistreatment of teeth

Latest statistics from the Oral Health Foundation show that three-in-four (74%) adults eat a sugar-based snack every day. Nearly half (46%) eat two sugary snacks a day while more than one-in-four (28%) have three or more.

The impact that sugar has on the nation’s teeth is horrific.   

Tooth decay remains common in adults while NHS England spent £36m last year removing rotten teeth from children.

The charity believe a tax on puddings and confectionary would pave the way for healthier, more nutritious alternatives.

Dr Carter says: “Eating healthier foods with less sugar is more expensive. This can present problems for many individuals and families across the UK.  We want to see more people eat less sugar, but the alternatives must become more affordable. That’s why a portion of the income of any new pudding tax must be put towards making healthier foods cheaper.” 

General health warnings

Sugar is not only a problem for our teeth.  It also plays a leading role in wider health conditions.

In the UK, nearly one-in-three (29%) adults are now classified as obese while there are nearly five million people with type-2 diabetes.

“A pudding tax will not only be good for our oral health, but it also has the potential to make significant impact on our wider health too,” Dr Carter says.

“While ice creams, sweets, crisps, biscuits and cakes might satisfy our taste-buds and provide us with an energy burst, they contain no nutritional value.  To properly fight tooth decay, obesity and diabetes and promote healthier and more forward-thinking living, sugar must be taken off the high street.”