World Health Organisation supports a tax on sugar

26 January 2016 by
World Health Organisation supports a tax on sugar

Around 41 million children under the age of five are overweight or obese, according to the latest figures from a World Health Organisation (WHO) commission.

The commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) has put forward a number of recommendations to tackle the problem, including an "effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages".

Overweight prevalence among children under the age of five has risen between 1990 and 2014 from 4.8% to 6.1%. The number of affected children has increased from 31 million to 41 million during that time.

Meanwhile the figure of overweight children in lower middle-income countries has more than doubled over that period from 7.5 million to 15.5 million.

In 2014, almost half (48%) of all overweight and obese children aged under five lived in Asia and one quarter (25%) in Africa.

Peter Gluckman, commission co-chair, said: "WHO needs to work with governments to implement a wide range of measures that address the environmental causes of obesity and overweight, and help give children the healthy start to life they deserve."

The marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages was identified as a major factor in the increase in children being overweight and obese, particularly in the developing world.

The report states: "The commission believes there is sufficient rationale to warrant the introduction of an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Available evidence indicates that taxes on products such as sugar-sweetened beverages are the most feasible to implement, with data indicating an impact on consumption.

"Some countries may consider taxes on other unhealthy foods, such as those high in fats and sugar. Taxing energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods would require the development of nutrient profiles and modelling suggests this may reduce consumption."

The ECHO report was presented to the WHO director-general earlier this week, following a two-year process to globally address the alarming levels of childhood obesity.

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