In the second part of the Leon co-founder's review of the UK food system, published yesterday (15 July), Dimbleby wrote that the UK now has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to escape the ‘Junk Food Cycle’ in which it is trapped.
One of the key recommendations is the introduction of a Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax, which suggests a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed foods or in restaurants and catering businesses.
This would raise up to £3.4bn a year, some of which should fund an expansion of free school meals to an extra 1.1 million children and an overhaul of Britain’s food and cooking culture.
The Government has six months to respond to the report, however, asked about the proposal after a speech in Coventry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would 'study the report with interest', but added that he was not 'attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hardworking people'.
According to The Guardian, some members of the expert panel who helped Dimbleby draw up the Government-commissioned report are understood to be disappointed at the immediate dismissal of an idea they see as strongly supported by evidence.
Johnson was also noncommittal on the report more generally.
He said: “It’s an independent report. I think there are doubtless some good ideas in it. As I said earlier on, we believe in tackling obesity, trying to help people to lose weight, promoting exercise and tackling junk food advertising and so on.”
Speaking after Johnson’s comments, Dimbleby said the proposed tax was not about pushing up costs for hardworking people.
“It is designed to force manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar and salt in their products, which are causing enormous harm to the people of this country and putting intolerable strain on the NHS,” he said.
The NFS report states that the UK population’s ‘malfunctioning’ appetites and poor diets – fuelled by consumer and manufacturer’s reliance on processed food – place an unsustainable burden on the NHS, contribute to 64,000 deaths each year in England alone, and costs the economy £74bn