Posted: 09/08/2021

Fears over impact of proposed salt and sugar tax on small food & drink producers

sugar tax

A salt and sugar tax should be introduced and the UK’s food network aligned with its climate targets, an independent review of the nation’s food systems has recommended.

Part two of the Government-commissioned National Food Strategy plans to transform food in England “from farm to fork”, following the review, led by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of fast-food chain Leon and the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

The report recommends that a tax of £3/kg on sugar and £6/kg on salt sold for use in food manufacturing and foodservice should be introduced, citing current over-consumption of the two ingredients in the UK.

It stated that the tax would apply to all sugar and ingredients used for sweetening, including syrups, and would “encourage manufacturers to reformulate products”.

Dimbleby claimed that the tax would not, in most cases, lead to price increases. However, chief scientific officer for the Food & Drink Federation, Kate Halliwell said: “After years of cost pressures, businesses in our sector are already operating on very tight margins, and further costs would have to be passed on to the consumer.”

John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food added: “My concern is that the tax will discriminate against smaller food & drink producers who use those ingredients judiciously and source them well to add necessary flavours.”

The review also called for a push towards more environmentally friendly farming practices, recommending that of the £2.4bn per year budget for agricultural funding, £2.2bn be spent on Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes. ELMs will pay for farmers to maintain hedgerows, engage in low-till farming and maintain new woodlands, while a suggested ring-fencing of £500m-£700m will go towards encouraging farmers to convert less-productive areas into carbon-capturing landscapes used for smaller scale food production. The paper also called for a 21% reduction of the 70% of land in the UK currently used for food production.

Chief Executive of the Soil Association Helen Browning welcomed the report. hailing its commitments to making farming more sustainable.

Over the next six months, the Government has committed to develop a Food Strategy White Paper informed by the review and other stakeholders.

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