Listening to BBC Breakfast this morning (other breakfast tv shows are available but my choice is the BBC, it’s the least bad option until Frasier starts on Channel 4) my ears pricked up when I heard the headlines “Tax on sugar, salt and GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables!!!” I could feel the red mist descend as the conclusion that I nearly jumped to on hearing that headline was that the price of food would rocket and make life even more difficult for those living in food poverty. But then I remembered an important life lesson from Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype.”
The guest brought on to discuss the report, “The Plan” was Henry Dimbleby and it was then that I discovered the real news behind the headlines. Henry is the report’s lead author and if like me you’re wondering who he is then yes, David Dimbleby is his Da.
The UK Government commissioned this report to address the growing issue of an unhealthy and overweight population who are living longer and putting pressure on the health and social care system. At the core of this the report addresses the issues that have gone wrong with our food system.
From chapter 16 of the report,
“The food system of the future must meet these goals:
Make us well instead of sick
Be resilient enough to withstand global shocks
Help to restore nature and halt climate change so that we hand on a healthier planet to our children.
Meet the standards the public expect, on health, environment and animal welfare”
There are so many issues connected to this issue and I am limited for space here, but an important question I have is, if the UK government implements the recommendations in this report does it also follow that food prices will rise?
Last August I wrote about the eat out to help out scheme, remember that? In that piece, I addressed the issue of food poverty and obesity. *Vegetarians and vegans look away now* I know that the meat that I buy is grass-fed and is good quality because I buy from our local treasure Mr Finnegan the butcher. If you’re a stranger to your local butcher I suggest you go and introduce yourself and discover the good quality food that’s available to you. They’ll also usually have a stock of local products like honey and eggs. Don’t eat pre-packed, mass-produced, wrapped in plastic, fed-God-knows-what supermarket meat. Yes you may pay slightly more in the butcher’s but the quality of your food will be so much better and more enjoyable.
Back to Mr Dimbleby The Younger. His interview this morning was eye opening and very informative. The sugar and salt tax is a “reformulation tax”. This tax applies to the food producers, the tax is charged only on wholesale sugar and salt. The manufacturers reformulated the sugar that was in sugary drinks after that tax was imposed and the amount of sugar was reduced. No one really noticed, his point is that the food producers were adding more and more salt and/or sugar to processed food because the food they produce tastes good but doesn’t fill us up, we become accustomed to the sweet/salty taste and need more of it in the food, so they add more sugar/salt to it and it runs on and on and on. The junk food cycle needs to be broken and needs to be tackled directly, the tax is not to increase price, but to get the food manufacturers to address the issue of ultra-processed food.
So what will replace the reduced sugar/salt? Apparently 50% of the food we eat is processed. Before you sigh into your oat milk latte and reject this assertion unless you make ALL your food from scratch and don’t do any shopping in a supermarket, it’s likely you have processed food in your home. Food culture needs to change and the addictive nature of fast food needs to change. David said that, if the recommendations in the report are implemented then the sugar in processed food will likely be reduced, not necessarily simply replaced with sweeteners.
So the short answer is no, food prices will not skyrocket due to this suggested taxation. There are those more eminent than me who can point to other reasons why food prices may rise.
I have an interest in public health, diet and nutrition as I have been living with a disability/chronic illness since 2015. I am of the opinion that we all have a personal responsibility to live as healthy and active a life as we can, to reduce unnecessary pressure on our cherished health and social care system, but also just to make us feel better and improve our quality of life. Of course, if you’re living with a disability/chronic illness then you have less scope than the rest of the population, but you do have options and even small changes can make a huge difference. I love this advert to inspire people to get moving
Lisa Wells is a disabled single parent living in a rural village in Co Down, the name of which hardly anyone can pronounce and only the residents know how to find. She has been writing a blog on life indoors for a few years.