Obesity is a complex issue, there is no silver bullet. There is currently no evidence that food taxes reduce obesity or create long-term behaviour change.

In April 2018, a UK soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) was introduced for producers and importers of sugar sweetened soft drinks.  Between spring 2012 and spring 2016, prior to the announcement of the levy, manufacturers had already cut sugar from their products by 15.6% (Kantar Worldpanel data).

Any review of the evidence, should account for this long term downward trend. It should also consider that the original policy aim for the SDIL was to reduce childhood obesity. Looking at current data levels, there has been an overall reduction in sugar intakes from drinks, but there has been no reduction in childhood obesity.

The FDF believes that reformulation policies should remain voluntary, any taxes on foods will not help companies to find solutions to complex technical issues, but may divert investment away from innovation.


Update on food and drink taxes

Food taxes Diet and health

Currently, milk based drinks are exempt from the soft drinks levy. However, in 2021, HM Treasury will review progress on the sugar reduction ambition in this category and decide whether this exemption should continue.

In 2018, the soft drinks levy came into force. The levy is aimed at producers and importers of soft drinks, with the rates differencing depending in the amount of total sugars in the drinks. The rates are; 5g to >8g sugars/100ml = 18p per litre and 8g or over sugars/100ml = 24p per litre.

In October 2020, HMRC published statistics on receipts, liabilities and volume for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. Provisional receipts for April to September 2020 were £143 million, lower than that collected during the same period in 2019 (£163 million).

Future milestones


Treasury to review whether milk based drinks should be exempt from levy.


National Food Strategy Part II Report - Update

FDF’s Chief Scientific Officer, Kate Halliwell responds to the publication of the second part of the National Food Strategy report.

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Guidance: Reformulation guide - Spotlight on sugars

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This guidance sets out regulatory considerations for sugars reduction, outlines available sugar replacers and factors affecting consumer acceptance of sugar replacers.

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