The sugar tax: how a great idea went pear-shaped
The sugar tax is one of the largest pieces of health legislation to hit the UK food industry and you would think that, as founder of a British, high-health, high-performance all-natural sports nutrition company, I would be over the moon about it...
After all, the UK government has finally stepped in to curtail the endless shoving of sugar into, well, pretty much anything you can eat that comes in a packet. In doing so, they have stood tall against a food industry which, largely, couldn’t care less about consumer health or welfare.
Pow! Take that food industry - here’s a free ride to saving money and a ton of great PR while actually making public health worse. That’ll teach you! Yours sincerely, The Government
The sugar tax should be one in the eye for the food industry, a wake up call to let them know they can’t bugger up people’s health at will and then blame consumers’ lack of self-control for spiralling rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Sadly, the sugar tax is a total turkey. Here’s why:
1 The sugar got swapped for something much worse
All the sugar that’s been removed has invariably been replaced with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame k, sorbitol, and sucralose, all of which are far more damaging to health than the sugar they’ve replaced.
The simple evidence this is A Bad Thing can be seen with diet sodas, which contain the same sweeteners and whose rising sales have gone hand in hand with rising obesity, diabetes, etc.
The sugar tax - less sugar, more sweeteners, and a fatter, sicker population. Doh!
2 ‘Educated’ consumers are now actively avoiding sugar
Sugar has got a rather bad name lately after all, so bad I have genuinely had conversations with otherwise sane people who are reducing their fruit and vegetable intake as they’re worried about eating too much sugar.
Gah. Palms face with hand.
You can’t eat too much fruit and veg.
They naturally contain fibre, which has to be broken down for the body to access the sugar inside. Thus the flow of sugar into the system is regulated perfectly. This is the delight of natural whole foods.
Fruit and veg - awesome. Eat as much as you like with zero sugar worries
In other news, many otherwise sane folks are so delighted with the multiple ‘healthy choice’, ‘sugar-free’ and ‘low-sugar’ products now leaping out of the woodwork to save them from sugar, they're merrily buying tons of them.
Oh, hang on.
They’re actually getting screwed over worse (See point #1 above).
All the while, food companies can position themselves as the saviours of mankind, guffing on about how "in response to unprecedented consumer demand we have listened and removed all the sugar from Bloggs Wheet-o-Pops", etc.
Their ‘saving’ consumers is in reality more akin to a lifeboat crew holding their arms out to a shipwrecked sailor, only to take it in turns to punch him in the face.
3 Food companies cutting sugar are saving a packet
Artificial sweeteners are much cheaper on the international market than actual sugar, or any other natural ingredient. Swapping sugar for sweeteners saves a truckload.
Plus, having done the right thing the same companies whose products just got cheaper to make also avoid paying the sugar tax. It's a savings double whammy!
Natural ingredients have a handicap over their lab-grown counterparts by being reared naturally.
You know, like actually in nature. The clue’s in the name really.
Point is, natural stuff has good and bad harvests, years when the crop is booming and others where the whole lot is wiped out by a tornado. Then it needs storing perfectly, transporting perfectly, and even then if you’re not careful it can still go off before it gets to the consumer.
So its price varies a lot in any year which is hard work for any food business at scale.
Sweeteners on the other hand, are made in factories and labs, last somewhere into the next millenium, and maintain rock solid low prices all year round. Much easier, and cheaper to manage.
4 The sugar tax - everyone wins, except the consumer
The government gets brownie points for stepping in proactively on public health (hooray), the food industry responds and gets to look like the hero of the piece (double hooray), and it’s trebles all round.
Except for the consumer, who’s now doing all the right things avoiding sugar and eating ‘low-sugar’ and ‘no-sugar’ products while his waistline mysteriously expands, his diabetes risk rises and he takes one step closer to heart disease.
5 Confused by the sugar tax? No need. You can avoid this health and performance minefield really easily by:
- Focusing your diet on wholefoods - vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, pulses, plus quality meat and fish for all the non-veggies out there
- And swapping soft drinks for water. You can even have sparkling water if you’re feeling flash
- Erm, that’s it
No sweeteners, no chemical cr*p and no hidden junk. Just powerful, natural nutrition for your performance. That’s all we do at 33Fuel
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Sports nutrition’s toxic 12, part two
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Why sugar free sports drinks are a really bad idea
Sugar in sports nutrition - how so much sports nutrition is little different to sweets