British lawmakers asked the government on Monday to implement a hefty tax on sugary drinks and ban certain advertising of unhealthy foods, hoping the measures would help tackle childhood obesity.
Parliament's Health Committee said in its report that there is "clear evidence that measures to improve the food environment" are essential to fighting obesity and proposed a 20 percent surcharge on sugary drinks, as well as banning advertising of unhealthy, sweet foods during family TV shows before 9 p.m., reported Reuters. All proceeds would go towards helping children with the highest risk of obesity.
"One third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, and the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived," said Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Health Committee, according to the Guardian. "A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible."
The group also said that labels should show sugar content in teaspoons and called for smaller portion sizes. Buy one, get one free advertising deals would also face "strong controls" and supermarkets would be banned from placing sweets and less healthy foods at the end of aisles and at the checkout, a psychological tactic commonly used to increase sales of those particular items.
The report puts the lawmakers at odds with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who do not support sugar taxes, according to Express.
Public Health England, the country's main public health organization, released a report one month backing similar obesity-fighting measures, reports the International Business Times. As evidence that the plan could work, the report cited Mexico's 10 percent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks which resulted in a 6 percent reduction in their consumption.
The beverage industry, however, says lawmakers have "swallowed" the agenda of lobbyists. "It's disappointing that the committee has missed its chance to add a robustly independent voice to the obesity debate," said Ian Wright, director general of Britain's Food and Drink Federation, according to Reuters. "No one seems to have considered hard-pressed consumers in all this," he said in a statement, adding that consumers pay billions in taxes on food and drink.