It was easy to raise an eyebrow at George Osborne’s new sugar tax; timed so well to keep less tasty economic morsels off the front pages.
While in real terms it will barely touch food industry profits or the burgeoning obesity crisis; anyone selling sugar-filled drinks and processed food will be worried.
Osborne’s tax is important for what it symbolises; a recognition of wrong-doing, a finger pointed, a nationally agreed guilty party.
Sugar campaigner and cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra has said that to really get to grips with junk food it needs to go the way of smoking; stop being acceptable, accessible and affordable.
Sugar is hard to avoid. Going cold turkey involves giving up everything from crisps to yoghurt along with healthy looking salads, dressed to their nines in the sweet stuff. Like smoking, the harmful and arguably addictive nature of sugar, and its omnipresence, have emerged a little too late for many of us.
Thankfully though, the government tax symbolises an acceptance, at a national level, that profiting from the sale of food that contains excessive amounts of an ingredient which has no nutritional value, is not only unacceptable, but irresponsible, something that should be penalised.
Osborne himself hailed the move a ‘landmark public health decision’. He’s right, money talks, and where the Government leads others will follow. The mood music has changed, making it easier then acceptable, soon expected, to remove sickly perpetrators from hospital aisles, children’s menus and gyms.
The food industry will respond quickly, but our taste buds will take longer to accept the bitter truth, our lives used to depend on seeking out energy-dense, often sweet, food. I’m confident though that this tax signals the beginning of the end of irresponsible sugar.