“Sugar tax is simply about taxation and won’t have an effect on health” Author: MB

Mon 12/10/2015 - 11:13 MB The Ghent University health economist Lieven Annemans fears that the so-called “sugar tax” that the Federal Government is to levy on soft drinks such as lemonade and cola will not have any effect at all when on the nation’s health. Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Professor Annemans said that “This appears to be a purely fiscal measure”.

The Federal coalition partners, the Flemish and Francophone liberals, the Flemish nationalists and the Flemish Christian democrats, agreed that a sugar tax should be introduced as part of a range of so-called “tax shift measures”. Initially 1 eurocent will be levied on 33cl cans of soft drinks and 3 eurocents will be levied on 1 litres bottles.

In the coming months the Federal Government will look at how the tax can be extended to cover unhealthy foodstuffs such as sweets and crisps.

Professor Annemans is a great advocate of a sugar tax, but is not impressed with the Federal Government’s plans. Mr Annemans told ‘De ochtend’ that “A sugar tax is really useful from a health perspective, but a number of condition are linked to its effectiveness.”

"The tax must be at least between 10% and 20% and should preferably be set in combination with subsidies for healthy alternatives and information telling the public why some products aren’t so healthy”, Professor Annemans said.

"What I now see is a very low-level tax, probably about 2%, that has been set from the perspective that it is a good thing for the Exchequer, in the sense that it will bring in revenue. It is not at all linked to health objectives.”

However, Professor Annemans doesn’t find it strange that so-called light products. “There are studies that show that the light products aren’t as innocent as they might seem. Law makers will have reacted to this by taxing all soft drink.”