Food Standards Scotland agrees to radical measures to tackle Scotland’s diet-related health problems

20 January 2016

Food Standards Scotland (FSS)’s Board has today considered and accepted wide-ranging proposals on measures to improve the diet of the Scottish public.

These proposals range from consideration of a sugar tax to regulation around food and drink promotions. Portion size reduction and tougher targets for reformulation of foods and drinks were considered, alongside a number of other proposals.

These recommendations, which will now be put to Scottish Government Ministers, are designed to tackle head-on the growing obesity crisis in Scotland: if obesity continues to rise at the current rate, it is projected that 40% of the Scottish population will be obese 15 years from now1.

Ross Finnie, Chair of FSS, said: “There can be few in any doubt now as to the gravity of the health time-bomb related to poor diet and obesity facing our nation. The FSS Board was clear that as the sole body with statutory responsibility for diet and nutrition its leadership role is vital in affecting the changes in the paper.  We know that we have been missing the Scottish dietary goals for the past 15 years2, despite the range of changes already made, so the Board’s view is that a raft of alternative, more radical, measures and interventions must be considered and introduced if we are to have the impact that is needed.

“The Board agreed that it was vital that Food Standards Scotland works with industry to set out the evidence to support introduction of these measures in Scotland. We know that in Mexico, a 10% tax reduced the purchase of sugar-sweetened soft drinks by 12%3.

“Individual responsibility around food choices, exercise and activity levels remain important, but this cannot be left to individuals alone. It’s key that industry plays its part in finding solutions, which is why we accepted the suggestion of giving manufacturers and retailers 12 months in which to come up with an alternative acceptable solution to a sugar tax, and to propose action when it comes to re-weighting promotion of foods in favour of healthier options. But there should be no doubt that we are committed to improving dietary outcomes in Scotland, so if industry proposals fall short, we believe we should actively pursue other avenues, including taxation.”

Independent research, commissioned by Food Standards Scotland4, showed that over half (54%) of adults in Scotland claimed to be happy with the idea of unhealthy foods being taxed in order to decrease the price of healthy foods. 16% said it would depend on the amount of tax involved. The same number (54%) claimed a tax on unhealthy foods would encourage them to buy and eat less unhealthy foods.

Lorraine Tulloch from Obesity Action Scotland said:

“We are facing a public health crisis with overweight and obesity in Scotland. The steps that the FSS Board have agreed today have significantly shifted the debate on regulation and taxation of unhealthy food to when and how it should happen. We welcome and support these developments and agree now is the time for change so let’s do this to improve the health of the nation.”
 
Sources:
1 Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland: A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight. Edinburgh: the Scottish Government, 2010. www.gov.scot/Publications/2010/02/17140721/0
2 Situation Report (The Scottish Diet. It Needs to Change). Food Standards Scotland, 2015: http://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/sites/default/files/Situation%20Report...
3 Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study: http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.h6704.full.pdf+html
4 Attitudes to Diet and Health 2015: http://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/attitudes-diet-and-health-scotland-2015

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