Last night on Newsnight, the programme focused on the latest attempt to persuade the Government to impose a tax on sugar in food. The main target for this campaign is the sugar laden drinks industry. It would not have been a shock if the Industry had chosen to stay away from the programme, but they did attend and sent along a chap called Ian Wright who is the Director General of the Food and Drinks Federation. He started in this role in March 2015 having previously spent 14 years as Corporate Relations Director of a major drinks firm. According to the President of the FDF, Wright’s role is to “ensure that government and stakeholders understand the importance of food and drink manufacturing, and support our industry to meet the changing needs of UK consumers in the future”
In defending the level of sugar in drinks, Mr Wright came up with three statements that I would describe as the good, the bad and the ugly.
Good – He pointed out that as consumers most of us do not understand nutrition well enough to grasp the issues behind the campaign and food in general. He is of course right to suggest there is widespread ignorance on nutrition. One of the causes of this is the lack of education within Schools on the subject of Domestic Science. Perhaps FDF could address this and ask the Government to direct the sugar tax to reintroduce Domestic Science into Schools.
Bad – He admitted that the drinks Industry accounts for 1/3 of our sugar intake, although did so in a manner that attempted to argue that because of that, the Government should look at the other sources of sugar. This appeared to be a desire to focus on the healthy sugar which we consume through fruit and other food sources. However if 30% of our intake comes from one source, that of sugary drinks, that is a huge target in our need to change of our diets.
Ugly – Ian Wright argued that unlike the measure of calories which he claimed we all understand, that disclosing the number of sugar spoon equivalents present in our food would confuse us. I have some news for Mr Wright. That is both wrong and a deeply offensive suggestion, intended to influence policy makers who are also as arrogant as Mr Wright and his colleagues.
I spoke to a former Domestic Science Teacher who argues that a Sugar Tax is a good idea, that few people do understand calories, but in her view sugar spoons are much easier for us to understand and that it is time for Governments to reintroduced food science into the curriculum in a substantial way.