Response to the new commitment by the non-alcoholic beverage industry to reduce sugar by 20% by 2025

Statement by Professor Bruce Neal of The George Institute, Australia:

“Recognition today from industry and government that sugar consumption needs to be reduced - and that sugary drinks are the right place to start this - is a promising step.

Having industry recognise the health problems caused to our community by sugary drinks is a huge step forward. But the proposed reductions are not nearly ambitious enough. The UK achieved these sorts of reductions within two years of announcing a sugar tax. There is simply no reason we cannot do this in a much shorter timeframe.  We need a really clear explanation as to why Australians should have to wait for seven years.

We cannot wait this long. Australia is one of the most obese nations in the world and there are too many lives at stake for us to delay.  There is evidence from all around the world about the calamitous effects of obesity on people’s health, and solutions to this problem are not something that can be put off in this way. 

The costs are also unsustainable – we cannot continue to pour scarce healthcare dollars at this problem. Policy maker responses, whether through commitments, taxes, regulations, or health campaigns, need to be quick and decisive. A sugar tax remain an important tool to be considered by Australia.

It will be vital that these new commitments are integrated into the government’s Healthy Food Partnership. Strong monitoring and truly independent accountability measures will be vital if we are to see meaningful change from this voluntary commitment.

We are getting fatter and sicker as a nation. One third of our nation’s disease burden is due to preventable risk factors, including our expanding waist lines. We must act now to save lives - it is the right thing to do, for our kids and future generations.”