Norway leads the way on sugar taxes

Norway leads the way on sugar taxes

The Guardian reports that Norway has had a sugar tax since 1922 and more recently has created separate taxes for confectionary and sugary drinks. Norwegians are eating less sugar than at any time in the last 44 years, the health directorate in Oslo has said, announcing that annual consumption per person had fallen by more than 1kg a year since 2000.

Linda Granlund, the divisional director of public health in Norway told the national broadcaster: “We are not yet down to the recommended intake, but we have actually already reached our target for sugar reduction set for 2021.” In the UK, consumption of sugar in England had risen by 2.6% between 2015 and 2018, with Public Health England blaming a general increase in people eating very sugary products, of which there were increasing numbers in the shops.

The directorate’s annual report on the Norwegian diet said that average annual consumption of sugar had plummeted from 43kg to 24kg per person between 2000 and 2018 – including a 27% reduction in the past decade – to a level lower than that recorded in 1975.

Norway has had a generalised added sugar tax – introduced at the time as a means of raising revenue for the state, rather than reducing the consumption of what critics call the “pure, white and deadly” substance – since as early as 1922.

It has intervened more aggressively recently, creating separate taxes for confectionery and sugary drinks and hiking them at times dramatically: in January 2018, the levy on chocolate and confectionery went up by 83% to 36.92 krone (£3.12) per kilo, and on sugary and artifically-sweetened drinks by 42% to 4.75 (40p) a litre.

Among other data, the Norwegian directorate’s report revealed that consumption of chocolate and confectionery in Norway, which had trebled from about 5kg per person per year in 1960 to about 15kg in 2008, was now falling, totalling just over 12kg last year. Sales of sugary soft drinks, which peaked in the late 1990s at 93 litres per person, more than double the level of the 1950s, have also started dropping sharply and were down to about 47 litres per person last year, the directorate said.

The country is also seen as a leader on advertising regulation, with food manufacturers and suppliers agreeing in 2013 to voluntarily ban the marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children younger than 13.

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