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Fresh calls for sugar tax

The introduction of a sugar tax is one of the more radical suggestions in the eight-point plan to curb the increasing number of overweight and obese people in Australia.

Along with a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks, the plan also calls for restrictions on junk food ads, a fund for weight related education campaigns and mandatory health star ratings by July 2019.

The plan was drawn up by 34 health and community groups, led by the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC), and includes the Cancer Council, Heart Foundation, Nutrition Australia and several universities.

Executive manager of the OPC, Jane Martin, said in a statement that “without action, the costs of obesity and poor diet to society will only continue to spiral upwards”.

“The policies we have set out to tackle obesity therefore aim to not only reduce morbidity and mortality, but also improve wellbeing, bring vital benefits to the economy and set Australians up for a healthier future,” she said.

The OPC estimated that 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese and the issue cost the country an estimated $8.6 billion between 2011 and 2012, through GP services, hospital care, absenteeism and government subsidies.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Nine Network that, while obesity was a major challenge, a tax was not the answer.

“I think we have enough taxes and there are enough imposts on us all when we go to the supermarket and we go shopping.

“The other thing is too where do you draw the line? There is a lot of sugar in a bottle of orange juice, are you going to put a tax on that?”

Mr Turnbull, however, agreed with other aspects of the plan.

“Labelling is very important, health messages through the media, … but also exercise. Get up and walk,” he said.

The Australian Food & Grocery Council said in a statement on behalf of eight major food and drink groups, that they rejected the idea of a sugar tax, but suggested a holistic approach was needed.

“We believe there is no single cause or quick fix solution,” a joint statement released by eight major food and drinks groups led by the Australian Food & Grocery Council said today.

“Industry continues to demonstrate strong compliance with self-regulatory food and beverage advertising codes which have virtually removed all non-core food advertising primarily directed to children.”

Obesity action plan

* Time-based restrictions on TV junk food advertising to kids

* Clear food reformulation targets

* Mandatory health star ratings by July 2019

* A national active transport strategy

* Fund for weight-related public education campaigns

* A 20 per cent health levy on sugary drinks

* A national obesity task force

* Develop and monitor national diet, physical activity and weight guidelines.

Source: OPC: Tipping the Scales 

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