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The UK introduced a Soft Drinks Industry Levy on April 6 that will apply to packaged beverages, with the exception of milk-based drinks, 100% fruit juice, de-alcoholised beer and wine, drinks with less than 5% sugar, and drinks from small producers.
The levy is 18 pence per litre for beverages containing 5-8% added sugar, and 24 pence per litre for beverages containing more than 8% added sugar. Sugar is classified as any sugar added during production and includes sucrose, fructose, glucose and honey. A standard can of soft drink will increase by 6-8 pence, depending on sugar content, while ‘diet’ versions will be exempt and stay the same price.
In anticipation of the levy, many beverage companies have reformulated their products so that a majority of their product portfolio is exempt from the levy. The government is claiming this as a win for health however as a result, the levy will raise less than half of the original amount predicted by the UK government. The government says they will make up the shortfall to ensure the 1 billion pounds promised goes to the Department for Education to develop primary school sports and healthy living programs.
Monitoring of the levy will help determine if this policy will change beverage consumption habits, reduce added sugar intake, or reduce obesity. And monitoring over time will tell if there are any unintended consequences.
South Africa has also recently introduced a sugar tax.