WHO report backs sugar tax to halt child obesity

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) backs a sugar tax, mandatory nutrient labelling and restrictions on marketing to children in a bid to tackle the child obesity epidemic around the world.

Produced by the WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO), the report was presented to the WHO yesterday after two years in the making, during which time ECHO consulted over 100 WHO member states and reviewed nearly 180 online comments.

The 68 page report urges the food industry to play its part in ending the obesogenic environment which exposes children to cheap, readily available ‘ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods’ by producing healthier food and drinks. But it also calls for government -led policy, such as taxation and marketing restrictions. The report will be put to the WHO assembly in May 2016 when member states will have the opportunity to discuss the findings and provide the support needed to go forward with implementation of the guidance. Some of the WHO’s recommendations include: Implement an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to, and the power of the marketing of unhealthy foods & a standardised global nutrient labelling system and interpretive front-of-pack labelling.

The role of food education was also emphasised in the report, which recommended nutrition literacy be a core part of the curriculum as well as bans on the sale of foods in salt, sugar and fat in schools.’Strong commitments must be accompanied by strong implementation systems and well-defined accountability mechanisms.’