16 Mar

Sugar consumption drops in the UK

Sugar consumption has fallen in the UK following the introduction of the sugar tax on soft drinks.

The soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) was brought in almost three years ago in April 2018 to encourage manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in popular drinks. The new tax meant that drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100 were taxed at 24p/litre and drinks with 5g-8g were taxed at 18p/litre. Drinks with less than 5g of sugar per 100g were exempt.

The quantity of drinks people are buying does not appear to have decreased in the wake of the sugar levy on soft drinks, but households are consuming less sugar. On average, household consumption fell by 30g per week between 2018 and 2019.

Researchers based at the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge analysed buying habits before and after the levy was introduced. Data was collected between March 2014 and March 2019. Researchers analysed sales volumes and the sugar content in household purchases of drinks across all three tiers of the soft drinks levy. The findings of the study are based on 31 million purchases made by more than 22,000 UK households.

The total volume of drinks purchased by households did not change after the introduction of the sugar tax but the quantity of sugar in the drinks decreased, meaning that average household consumption fell by around 30g per week. This equates to approximately 3 teaspoons per week per person.

The team concluded that the sugar tax could benefit public health without damaging the soft drinks industry, as sales volumes did not suffer in the aftermath of the levy.

Consuming sugary drinks, particularly between meals, can increase the risk of enamel erosion, cavities and increased sensitivity. The sugar tax was implemented to try to encourage people, especially children, to lower their sugar intake. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to dental issues, as well as an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.