WHO Recommends All Nations Tax Sugary Drinks Up to 50%

The tax recommendations cover and extend beyond sugary soda, soft drinks and energy and sports drinks.  The tax recommendations cover and extend beyond sugary soda, soft drinks and energy and sports drinks.

A new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday urged governments around the world to tax a wide variety of sugary drinks “in the range of 20-50%,” to lower consumption and reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

The report also found “strong evidence that subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables that reduce prices by 10%-30% are effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.” The WHO recommended that such subsidies be put in place, Forbes reported.

The tax recommendations, which would result in proportional reductions in consumption, according to the report, extend beyond sugary soda, soft drinks and energy and sports drinks. The WHO is urging that sugary beverages like flavored milks, breakfast drinks and 100% fruit juices, also be taxed.

Recent beverage taxes passed in Mexico, Berkeley, California and Philadelphia have focused on sugary soda and soft drinks, even though 100% fruit juice and sugary flavored milk (like chocolate and strawberry) can contain as much sugar as soda, and sometimes more. Philadelphia will also be taxing soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners.

  Stringent Sugar Intake

The WHO expressed concern about worldwide sugar consumption in 2015, when it recommended that people keep their daily sugar intake below 10% of their total daily calories. The agency even recommends a more stringent intake of sugar (below 5% of total daily calories or no more than 6 teaspoons a day), for additional health benefit. “Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet,” according to Dr. Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

The WHO tax recommendations come at a time when excess sugar consumption has been linked to numerous chronic conditions. “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of NCDs, in a statement. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”

A fact sheet prepared by WHO noted that obesity has doubled, worldwide, since 1980 and 39% of adults (age 18 and over) were overweight in 2014 while 13% were obese. In addition, WHO states that overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight in countries where the majority of the world’s population resides. In the US, more than one-third (35.7%) of adults (age 20 and over) are obese while 69% of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

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