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High sugar tax - low sugar content

Sugar is a cost-efficient flavor carrier that is widely used in the food industry. Especially heavily processed foods - such as pre-made meals and sweets - contain large quantities of sugar. As the sugar content of food and drinks steadily rises, so does the consumption per capita. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 25 grams or six teaspoons of sugar per day per person. However, the daily consumption often exceeds the recommended amount many times over in many countries. In the long run, this excessive consumption of sugar carries great risks to our health, as too much sugar is one of the main causes of obesity and metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

In recent years, politicians and the general public have started noticing this issue. In many places, measures have been taken to curb sugar consumption and its associated risks. Following the example of many countries, the British Parliament passed a tax on sugar-containing beverages in 2016. Through this tax and other measures, the Parliament intends to reduce the level of sugar added to food by 20%, by 2020. The special levy will come into effect in April 2018 and will be levied on beverages with a sugar content of more than 5 grams per 100 milliliters. If the content exceeds 8 g per 100 ml, a higher tax rate will be charged.

The non-governmental organization Foodwatch examined the impact of the proposed tax on the UK food market and published its findings in March 2018. According to this report, the tax is already effective even before its official introduction. For the past two years, the majority of companies operating in the UK have reduced the sugar content of their drinks below the 5-gram limit or announced corresponding reductions before the law became legal.

At the same time, this change comes with a downside: while manufacturers reduce the amount of sugar, they inevitably have to increase the amount of sweeteners to achieve the same taste. Although no harmful effects on humans have yet been proven, the use of sweeteners is still controversial. Consumed in moderation, however, they seem to benefit society as a whole. While positive overall, this development is only one step in the fight against obesity and its associated complications. While restrictions are helpful, they should be accompanied by other measures to promote a healthy, balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Only by combining appropriate measures can we stop and prevent the steady progression of obesity and diabetes, and prevent overeating and malnutrition from becoming one of the key health problems of the 21st century.

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