Sheffield’s leisure centres should cut the price of healthy foods in their vending machines and cafés to help a new ‘sugar tax’ be a success, a city nutrition expert has said.
This week Sheffield International Venues imposed a 20p charge on all drinks with added sugar sold at the group’s 11 sites, including Ponds Forge, Hillsborough Leisure Centre and Beauchief Golf Course.
A minimum of £25,000 generated by the charge will go towards health schemes, says SIV, which has pledged to reinvest ‘every penny’ in programmes aimed at curbing rising rates of obesity and diabetes among young people.
But Trevor Simper, senior lecturer in nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “A valid question is whether they will return the revenues into making healthier options cheaper - whether they will then try to provide half-filled baguettes, bits of fruit and nutty, seedy snacks, and subsidise those.”
However, Mr Simper suggested that fizzy drinks should not be removed from sale altogether, and recommended that the public should be given ‘a little bit of credit for their intelligence’. “What I’ve seen is that people say ‘What’s available isn’t good for me’.”
Mr Simper said judging the scheme’s likely success was a ‘tough call’, but added: “I would like to think it would have some effect.”
He said the wider availability of sugary foods could be traced back to the 1970s, when fears spread about the effect of a fatty diet. “You can take any number of products now, like a yoghurt - you will look quite hard to find one that is not ‘low in fat’. Consequently the sugar content has gone up.”
Tests have recently been carried out at the university, in which participants were fed high-calorie foods with a large sugar content.
“Their blood sugar rises over a fairly long period of time in a way that would be damaging if you were eating that way day in, day out.”
A national ‘sugar tax’ targeting soft drinks firms is set to be introduced from 2018.