WHO recommends 20% tax increase on sugary drinks


The APNU/AFC coalition government could in the future be looking at legislations aimed at ensuring Guyanese curb their sugar, salt, fat and abusive substances intake. This is according to Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton, in an invited comment on Monday.


Dr. Norton’s comment was sought in light of the recent World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report, which stated that taxing sugary drinks can reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.


The report titled “Fiscal policies for Diet and Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)” said Fiscal policies that lead to at least a 20% increase in the retail price of sugary drinks would result in proportional reductions in consumption of such products, thus lowering NCDs.


Citing the case of Barbados, Dr. Norton, said congratulations are in order since they have managed to introduce a tax which is redirected to the health sector and he will be advocating for similar measures locally.


“What  they’ve managed to do and I would hope that I can do the same, is to get that tax directed towards health care but there is no doubt about the fact that it must not only be sugar. It’s got to fat, salt, sugar and then we have to go the other way of increasing the knowledge of the benefits of things like water and fresh fruits and green vegetables and lifestyle; exercise” the Minister outlined.


He said the treatment for Non-Communicable Diseases continues to not only burden the individual but the economy as a whole.


“If we don’t control Non-Communicable Diseases; that is starting from the beginning with lifestyle; diet and the abuse of toxic substances then we will certainly be having an economic problem in Guyana” he noted.


According to the WHO, nutritionally, people do not need any sugar in their diet and it recommends that if people do consume free sugars, they keep their intake below 10% of their total energy needs, and reduce it to less than 5% for additional health benefits.


This is further broken down to less than a single serving (at least 250 ml) of commonly consumed sugary drinks per day by Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.


In 2012, 38 million people lost their lives due to NCDs, 16 million or 42% of whom died prematurely – before 70 years – from largely avoidable conditions. More than 80% of people who died prematurely from an NCD were in developing countries. Governments had committed to reducing deaths from NCDs, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda includes a target to reduce premature deaths from diabetes, cancers, heart, and lung diseases by one-third by 2030.

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