BORIS Johnson is set to rule out the sugar and salt tax within weeks – despite recommendation from the government's food tsar.
The Prime Minister indicated his opposition to the idea last summer, which was proposed by Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy.
A Whitehall source confirmed that “the PM was clear on taxes last summer and that won’t change” in the upcoming government's White Paper on food strategy, according to inews.
An industry source said the food sector would be pleased with the decision and suggested that it would be a struggle to get backbenchers to agree on any new levies even if Mr Johnson changed his mind.
Campaigners said it would be a "missed opportunity” to incentivise businesses to make their food healthier.
Mr Dimbleby, the co-founder of Leon restaurants, drew up a strategy to shake up how food is produced and the kinds of diets most people eat.
Published in July last year, its top recommendation was a “sugar and salt reformulation tax” with some of the revenue used to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families.
Mr Dimbleby explained at the time that this would instead encourage food producers to reformulate their products by taking sugar and salt out.
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He also says he doesn't think the tax will lead to increased prices.
Boris Johnson, however, said he is “not attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hardworking people”.
He is set to hold his line in the government’s response to the strategy, which is expected to be published next month.
Campaigners say they hope the government will at least introduce mandatory reporting for food companies to set out how they are encouraging healthier eating.
Barbara Crowther, children’s food campaign co-ordinator at the charity Sustain, said the group would continue to push for taxes in order to “break the junk food cycle”.
She said the 2018 sugary drinks tax was the “single most impactful policy in reducing the amount of sugar in soft drinks” and this had a greater impact in lower-income households where there is a greater risk of obesity.
“We can see how these policies fundamentally encourage businesses to change what they are doing," she said.
“So while we absolutely support initiatives like mandatory reporting, it’s also vital to incentivise business to go faster by using the tax system to make it harder to produce products high in fat and salt and sugar.
“So it is an opportunity missed if the government doesn’t include use of fiscal measures.”
Ms Crowther believes that a levy not only incentivises business to make their products healthier, but also raises revenues for the government to tackle health problems.
“If that money can be levied from business making their products healthier which in turn is helping the public also become healthier as part of our Covid recovery agenda and if it is also putting more money into the health service and healthier programmes in our schools for children, then we’ve got a win-win," she added.
“So it would be very short-sighted if the Government were to ignore the recommendation.”
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