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19 October 2021


UK levy on sugar-sweetened beverages should inspire governments across Europe

Approximately 60 million Europeans are living with diabetes today, including more than 90% with type 2 diabetes, and trends are on the rise: it is estimated that by 2040, they will be 71 million, or 11% of the adult population. Our region also has the highest number of children with type 1 diabetes in the world, 140 000, with over 20 000 new cases diagnosed annually. On top of the human suffering caused by diabetes, the economic cost of the disease in the European region is estimated at 145 billion Euro annually.

Recent studies have demonstrated that per capita sugar consumption is independently associated with the prevalence of type 2 diabetes1 ; that every 150 kcal/person/day (around one can of soda per day) increase in sugar availability is associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% 2 ; and that an increased access to sugar may in part explain the association between urbanisation and increased risk of type 2 diabetes3,4.

IDF Europe believes there is sufficient evidence for the need of concerted action to reduce sugar intake in the general population in Europe. Nevertheless, it recognises that access to sugar and other refined carbohydrates is important to treat hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes.

Taxation has proved to be one of the most effective measures to impact consumer behaviour and discourage the consumption of a specific product. A recent study suggest that in Mexico, the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages declined by an average of 6% in 2014, while the purchase of untaxed products increased by an average of 4% during the same period of time5.

In this light, the International Diabetes Federation European Region (IDF Europe) welcomes the decision of the United Kingdom HM Treasury of a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages which will come into force in April 2018, and salutes the crucial role played by Diabetes UK in reaching this decision. To ensure that this levy is complete, IDF Europe encourages the UK government to reconsider the exemption from this scheme of milk-based drinks and fruit juices with high sugar contents, as well as of small producers.

In addition to the foreseen decrease in consumption of these products, the fact that the revenue from this new tax will go towards funding physical education in primary schools in England is an important step in the direction of a healthier population. We hope that the administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will also be inspired by this decision.

As the voice of people with diabetes and healthcare providers in Europe, IDF Europe strongly advocates for the implementation of European national legislation aiming at reducing excessive sugar intake through taxation, ban of marketing activities targeted at youths, product reformulation, and any other initiative that can lead to a healthier lifestyle for all and a decrease of the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, and in line with the IDF 2015 framework for action on sugar, IDF Europe will shortly release a position paper on added sugar.

1 Weeratunga P, Jayasinghe S, Perera Y, Jayasena G, Jayasinghe S. Per capita sugar consumption and
prevalence of diabetes mellitus  global and regional associations. BMC Public Health. 2014;14
2 Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH. The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: a, economic analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PLos ONE. 2013, 8(2):e57873. Dpo:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873
3 Basu S, Stuckler D, McKee M, Galea G . Nutrtional determinants of worldwide diabetes: an econometric study of food markets and diabetes prevalence in 173 countries. Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jan;16(1):179-86
4 Cheema A, Adeloye D, Sidhu S, Sridhar D, Chan KY Urbanization and prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Southern Asia: A systematic analysis. J Glob Heal (internet). 2014 Jun (cited 2015 Feb 6);4(1). Available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.giv/pmc/articles/PMC4073245/
5 Colchero M, Popkin B, Rivera J, Wen Ng S Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study. BMJ2016;352:h6704doi:10.1136/bmj.h6704. Available from