A new plan backed by the Government to reduce the amount of sugar in soft drinks sold to Australians is, according to many doctors, a distraction from attempting any real change.
The Australian Beverages Council, representing the non-alcoholic drinks industry in Australia, has announced a commitment to reduce total sugar use by 20% by 2025. The move is backed by the Coalition Government.
Despite the Government’s approval of the pledge, experts have predicted that because the pledge applies across the entire industries’ portfolio that companies will simply produce lower kilojoule products rather than reduce sugar content.
Nothing in the current agreed commitment guarantees that any individual product would need to reduce its physical sugar content.
The AMA (Australian Medical Association) has been at the forefront of this issue, leading calls for the Government to introduce a tax to discourage the consumption of high sugar beverages. President of the AMA, Tony Bartone, has described the recent pledge as an attempt to “muddy the waters” and create a “diversion from the real issue”.
Mr Bartone went on to say that a sugar tax would address the issue of high consumption, which is “the heart of the problem”.
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt disagrees, saying that the industry was regulating itself. He said that Australia would need to “tackle the obesity epidemic” via the “practise of industry”, “participation” and “the support of government”.
Mr Hunt denied claims that this pledge was an attempt to shut up advocates of a sugar tax. He then proceeded to speak about the price of groceries and the effect on cost of living that a sugar tax would have on everyday Australians.
Mr Hunt and others who reject the notion of a sugar tax believe that regular Australians do not want to pay an added fee on soft drinks as part of a public health initiative.