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    Danone boss calls for higher ‘sin’ taxes on unhealthy food

    Photo: iStock

    Ministers should consider taxing products high in fat, sugar or salt to combat the obesity crisis, a leading food firms has said.

    Danone UK & Ireland, which sells the Actimel yogurt drink brand, says government intervention is required to ensure consumers are offered healthier products.

    “The UK food industry’s efforts to improve the health profile of its products have not moved fast enough. We’ve reached a point where meaningful intervention from the government is a necessary course of action,” The Guardian quoted James Mayer, president of Danone UK & Ireland, as saying.

    It says some food firms in the UK have not shown “enough appetite to change”.

    “It is time for the government to move from a policy that favours caution to one that sets clear parameters for the industry and consumers as to what constitutes a healthy product.

    “We see this as the only way industry as a whole will be incentivised to move towards healthier, more sustainable products. This is likely to involve moving faster on food and beverage data sharing and transparency, finally introducing restrictions on advertising of products [high in fat, sugar or salt] and looking at how VAT rates can be aligned to the health credentials of products,” Mayer said, adding that said only 10 per cent of Danone’s own products would be affected by what have been dubbed “sin” taxes.

    Mayer said the new approach should include restrictions on advertising as well as “looking at how VAT rates can be aligned to the health credentials of products”.

    The company says it does not want overall shopping costs to rise, but believes there should be a review of taxes to consider whether healthier products could be incentivised and sugar and fat-laden products taxed. It’s the first time a major food company has called for urgent government action in the face of rising rates of obesity.

    Mayer said Danone UK & Ireland had committed to keep 90 per cent of its range of products below the threshold that counts as high in fat, salt and sugar, and would not launch any new products marketed at children that were in that category.

    The French firm is best known for its yoghurt brands, but also owns bottled water brands Evian and Volvic.

    The statement by Danone UK & Ireland comes after Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, said last week that the latest drugs to combat obesity could be a “gamechanger”. Ministers are now under pressure over whether they could take more effective action to prevent obesity.

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