Call for cheaper healthy foods plus sugar tax
The Bermuda Diabetes Association yesterday called for a reduction in the cost of healthy foods alongside a tax on sugary items.
The charity said it supported the Government's proposed sugar tax, but warned that there were “inappropriate” taxes on water, fruits and vegetables that deter healthy choices.
It said: “We are told that ‘a portion' of the tax will be directed towards health education, but this may not be sufficient to reach those at highest risk for chronic diseases.
“There are also inappropriate taxes on water and fruits and vegetables that increase costs, and deter healthy choices.
“We hope that the tax on sugar will be accompanied by reductions in the costs of healthier options.”
The Government launched an eight-week consultation period into the proposed tax at the start of the month.
A consultation paper explained that the proposal would target “luxury items”, including sugary drinks and other “non-nutritive” foods, to help people be healthier and discourage importers from bringing in high-sugar products.
The Bermuda Diabetes Association described the move as an “essential component of a comprehensive sugar control policy” and pointed out that 74 per cent of Bermuda's adult population is overweight or obese.
It added: “Bermuda's community is suffering from an epidemic of diabetes and chronic disease. The rates of diabetes and complications are rising exponentially.
“We are seeing significant obesity and even type 2 diabetes in children.
“It has been proven in many studies that excess sugar consumption is associated with increased rates of chronic disease, not just diabetes.
“Therefore, the Bermuda Diabetes Association supports the Ministry Of Health's proposed taxation of sugar.”
The Bermuda Diabetes Association said eight countries had implemented a sugar tax, with the UK to put its version in place in March this year.
The group added: “It is thought that it will have the most impact to reduce child obesity rates.
“Mexico has similar rates of obesity and sugar consumption to Bermuda.
“More than 70 per cent of the added sugar in the diet comes from sugar-sweetened drinks. Coca-Cola is particularly popular and holds a place in the national culture.
“Since the introduction of a 50 per cent sugar tax, an analysis of sugary-drink purchases in Mexico has found that the 5.5 per cent drop in the first year after the tax was introduced was followed by a 9.7 per cent decline in the second year, averaging 7.6 per cent over the two-year period.
“In the poorest households, likely those with the highest risk of obesity and diabetes, the average decrease was 12 per cent over two years.”
And while the group said personal responsibility for individual health is “ideal”, shared responsibility and government programmes that support healthy living “are an essential part of the solution”.
It added: “We encourage the public to read the consultation paper and submit their answers to the questionnaire at gov.bm/health-public-consultations.”