Daily Management Review

German doctors demand a tax on sugar


We should fight against sugar with complex legislative measures at the state level, including excises and prohibitions on advertising addressed to children. Otherwise, the epidemic of diseases such as obesity and diabetes cannot be stopped. This is the main message of a five-page open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ministers of her government and leaders of parties, promulgated in Berlin on May 2.

Tony Hisgett
Tony Hisgett
The letter was signed by more than 1500 doctors. In addition, it was collectively supported by 15 associations of medical workers and sickness funds. The initiators were the Professional Association of Pediatric and Adolescent Doctors (BVKJ), the German Diabetes Society (DDG) and the Berlin NGO Foodwatch, which works to protect consumers' rights in the food industry.

There is no doubt that this is a whole campaign and that it will be headed by Foodwatch. In any case, an open letter to the chancellor and the government almost literally repeats the most important demands of the organization. Among them is pan-European introduction of special markings, where red color would denote food with excessive sugar, fat and salt content, as well as introduction of the recommended minimum standards of nutrition in kindergartens and schools throughout Germany.

One of the main requirements is introduction of a tax on sugar. This has already worked in the UK and Ireland: many manufacturers have previously reduced sugar content in their products in order not to pay excises levied on lemonades containing more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters. So, the British Fanta now contains not 6.9 grams of sugar, as before, but 4.6 grams, Foodwatch indicates. For comparison: Coca-Cola adds about 9 grams of sugar to this classic orange lemonade in Germany. 

However, not everyone agrees with such measures. Bernard Braun of the Socium Institute of Social Studies at the University of Bremen criticizes the tax on sugar as a single measure. Such a tax alone cannot stop obesity and diabetes, but it will hit consumers' pockets and increase dependence of a healthy lifestyle on the willingness or ability of people to spend more money on food.

The scientist calls to resort not so much to fiscal measures as to legislatively introduce, as is done with other ingredients.

You can oblige manufacturers to clearly show how much sugar is contained in their products, you can even require them to inform about harmful effects of sweet abuse following the example of how it is done now on packets of cigarettes, Bernard Braun believes.

The government of Germany has not officially reacted to the open letter of the doctors. The position of a number of cabinet members and, in particular, the Minister of Nutrition and Agriculture of Germany, Julia Klöckner, from Angela Merkel party, amounts to the fact that the state should not tell the population what to eat, but propagandize healthy food and a generally healthy lifestyle.

source: dw.de