As the debate on sugar, diet and obesity rages on, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has thrown its has into the ring.
The authoritative health organisation has stated its support for the introduction of a sugar tax in soft drinks.
This opinion forms part of a major report on the childhood obesity, with sugary drinks fingered as a major contributor to this phenomenon.
The move increases pressure on the UK government, as it prepares to issue its own strategy for tackling obesity in the UK.
Although there have been critics of the idea of a sugar tax, and the idea has previously bombed in Germany, the World Health Organisation outlines the arguments in favour of the idea in its recent report.
The WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity indicates that there is significant evidence suggesting that a sugar tax can have a strong influence on childhood obesity, when combined with other measures.
In addition to the sugar tax, the organisation also suggests that tackling portion sizes and improving food labelling would be beneficial for consumers.
The WHO believes that if countries fail to act sufficiently in order to address the existing situation that the medical, social and economic consequences will be of major magnitude.
Junk food is also targeted by the report, with the WHO suggesting that the marketing of fast food to children should be clamped down on in particular.
The suggestion is also mooted for schools to completely ban the sale of unhealthy food in their cafeterias.
Recent figures have indicated that the level of obesity in Britain is reaching an extremely unhealthy proportion.
Indeed, the UK is now the second lardiest nation in Europe, with only Hungary having a higher percentage of obesity according to the latest research.
The report states: “Childhood obesity is at crisis level in many countries and poses an urgent and serious challenge. The increasing rates of childhood obesity cannot be ignored and governments need to accept the responsibility to address this issue, on behalf of the children they are ethically bound to protect.”
Current estimates indicate that sugar is responsible for nearly 15% of all calorie intake in UK school-aged children.
And research by the University of Liverpool, which reviewed 22 separate studies, found that food advertising exposure has a massive influence on food consumption.
Dr Emma Boyland, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health & Society, commented that advertising has a particularly pernicious influence.
“Through our analysis of these published studies I have shown that food advertising doesn’t just affect brand preference – it drives consumption. Given that almost all children in Westernised societies are exposed to large amounts of unhealthy food advertising on a daily basis this is a real concern.”
Although Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to commit to a sugar tax, it does seem that the possibility is looming.
This will undoubtedly anger libertarians and those who believe it is both nannying and an ineffective way of addressing the issue of obesity.