Should high fructose corn syrup be taxed

Researchers study the effectiveness of regulations Less sugar drinks through labeling and high prices

Professor Stefan Lhachimi from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS) in Bremen describes the review articles by Cochrane as the "gold standard" when it comes to summarizing the evidence that is already available but distributed in the literature.

Food traffic light top - voluntary commitment flop

For their investigation, the research team analyzed a total of 58 studies on various measures against the consumption of sugary drinks and rated individual "interventions" according to the level of their scientific evidence. That means how reliably it has been proven that the respective measure also has the desired effect.

Accordingly, the most successful "interventions" include the labeling of food - for example with the help of the traffic light system or with emoticons such as smiling or sad smiley faces - and changing food standards in public institutions. In addition, price increases for beverages containing sugar and economic instruments such as a sugar tax or subsidies for low-calorie foods are promising.

"The work presents extensive and so far unique evidence of various interventions on the consumption of sugary drinks," says Professor Bernd Weber from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. Studies that show effects outside of a controlled laboratory environment are rare, but the work listed suggests that there could be meaningful, easy to carry out and effective intervention measures to reduce the consumption of high-sugar beverages and thus the calorie intake and health risks. According to the authors of the Cochrane Review, a voluntary commitment by the industry is one of the least effective measures.

For Lhachimi, the Leibniz Professor of Public Health - the result sounds plausible. From his point of view, it is particularly important for politics that so-called food traffic lights have a comparatively large effect on the sale of sweets and that price increases would certainly reduce the sale of sweet drinks. "The latter has long been known for other publicly available products (cigarettes and alcohol) that are harmful to health and has also led to corresponding product taxes," Lhachimi continues.

The state and society must use sharp instruments such as mandatory food traffic lights or a price increase through additional taxation to clearly show that these products are potentially harmful to health.

Prof. Dr. Stefan K. Lhachimi, Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS)

Food minister relies on voluntariness

While other European countries have long been relying on "interventions" as suggested in the study, politicians in Germany have been discussing suitable measures for a long time. The result: The Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner relies on voluntary action - one of the least effective measures, according to the results of the Cochrane Review. She presented this in December 2018 with her "national reduction and innovation strategy: less sugar, fats and salt in finished products". Because it relies on the voluntary commitment of the industry. This meets with criticism from experts.

According to the evidence, the Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Klöckner can no longer just insist on voluntary commitments by the industry, but must finally take note of the existing evidence and act accordingly.

Prof. Dr. Stefan K. Lhachimi, Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS)

For example, the introduction of a traffic light system, as it has already been introduced in France under the name Nutri-Score, has already been publicly discussed. Above all, that would change the way the products are presented, which, according to the neuroscientist Weber from Bonn, is important: "It is imperative to realize how strongly the way in which products are presented influences their consumption Placing on or near the products during the decision can help consumers make informed decisions. "

On the islands, the legislature is relying on a sugar tax: Since April 2018, it has to be paid for drinks containing sugar in Ireland and Great Britain. In Ireland it is 20 cents for drinks with more than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters - for drinks with more than eight grams it is even 30 cents.

There is also a sugar tax in Norway. In 2018 it was drastically increased by up to 83 percent. Since then, twelve million liters of less sweet drinks have been sold - a decrease of almost eleven percent. In Denmark and Finland, however, there was hardly any effect despite the tax.

France has opted for a kind of food traffic light: the Nutri-Score was introduced there in 2017. On a five-level label from dark green to dark red, it shows at a glance how the nutritional values ​​of a product are to be classified. There is also a sugar tax. The income from this flows into the country's social security funds.

There is also a food traffic light in Belgium. In addition, all sugar drinks have been taxed with cents since 2018.

For children, age-appropriate measures, such as the use of colored symbols or incentive systems via points or competitions, could easily be implemented, Weber continued. It is important to strengthen research on the long-term effects of such "interventions" in real environments and to review political strategies for their effects. Because there is also the consumer who would have to behave as planned. But sometimes unexpected or even paradoxical behaviors are observed, according to Weber.