16 September 2014

Media Statement

Response to calls for a soft drink tax to combat obesity

The Australian Beverages Council (ABCL) has today responded to the calls from Professor Gary Wittert, Head of Discipline of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, for a tax on soft drinks, saying a tax on beverages would be ineffective to combat health related issues.

“The Australian Beverages Council opposes discriminatory and regressive measures such as taxing specific products as a means to combat overweight and obesity,” said the Council’s CEO Geoff Parker.

“A tax on beverages is ineffective because no single ingredient, food product or beverage alone is the sole contributor to obesity problems,” he said.

Mr. Parker said there was no proof that a tax of this kind would work.

“Other countries have applied similar taxes without success, and the countries that have introduced these taxes have already started to repeal them because they simply don’t work,” he said.

The non-alcoholic beverages industry has long recognised it can play a role, along with other stakeholders, in addressing the complex and multi-factorial issues of overweight and obesity. For close to a decade the industry has not marketed to children under 12, has reformulated products to offer low and no-sugar varieties and has voluntarily displayed kilojoule information on the front of labels.

“Taxes don’t teach healthy lifestyles; if we want a healthier country, we need better education about exercise and balanced diets.”

Mr. Parker said calls for a beverages tax were further misguided given research that showed Australians were now showing a strong preference to low kilojoule drinks.

“The fact that three of the top four biggest selling soft drinks in Australia are now zero or low kilojoule shows that companies are taking significant action through innovation, reformulation and other initiatives to provide consumers with variety and choices consistent with healthy lifestyles.

Another tax on families would not be able to deliver this,” Parker concludes.

Media contact:

Geoff Parker – Chief Executive Officer, Australian Beverages Council, +61 (0)407 646 195

The Australian Beverages Council is the peak body for the non-alcoholic beverages industry and represents 95% of the industry’s production volume through membership

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141609 Beverages Council Professor Gary Wittert Response