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Press releases

19 February 2016

This hypothetical study ignores real-world evidence

BSDA responds to Cancer Research UK and UK Health Forum’s modelling study on a soft drinks tax.

Gavin Partington, BSDA Director General, said:

“The hypothetical claims made in this modelling study run contrary to real-world evidence. In fact, the soft drinks tax in Mexico has reduced average calorie intake by 6 calories per person, per day with no evidence that it has reduced levels of obesity.

“The most comprehensive study into tackling obesity, the McKinsey Global Institute 2014 report and Public Health England, found that a tax would be much less effective than reducing portion sizes and reformulating products.

“These are steps that our industry is already taking and as a result has reduced calories by 7.5% since 2012 with plans to reduce a further 20% by 2020.”


Notes to editors

  • There is no evidence that food taxes have an effect on obesity. In 2013, Denmark scrapped its fat tax because of its economic impact and abandoned plans for a tax on sugar.  Evidence from France shows that while sales of soft drinks initially fell after a tax was introduced in 2012 they have increased since. In Mexico the impact of a soft drinks tax saw a reduction of only 6.2 calories per day reduction – 0.2% of the daily diet and a similar tax in the UK would lead to a reduction of just 4 calories per person per day.
  • The 2014 McKinsey Global Institute report, which is one of the most comprehensive and wide-ranging global studies on the issue, found that a 10% tax on high-sugar and high-fat products in the UK would be ten times less effective than reducing portion sizes and eight times less effective than reformulation of products.
  • The Defra Family Food Survey (Dec 2015) shows that purchases of regular soft drinks fell by 32% between 2010 and 2014, whilst low calorie drinks purchases increased by more than a third.
  • According to Government NDNS data published in 2014 soft drinks account for 3% of calories in the average UK diet.
  • The majority (57%) of soft drinks now sold in the UK are low and no calorie including nearly half (49%) of all carbonates.
  • Soft drinks contributed 8.8% of household sugar consumption in 2015, down from 10.1% in 2011. (Kantar Worldpanel)
  • Only four in ten Britons think introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks would be effective in tackling obesity, according to an independent poll of GB adults by Populus for the Food and Drink Federation and 78% say it will inevitably lead to taxes on other foods.