The British Dental Association (BDA) has said the new evidence on the huge gains made in the fight against tooth decay secured by the sugar levy shows how the government must remain willing to force the hand of the food industry on reformulation.
Using data on hospital admissions for tooth extractions caused by decay, new research published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health suggests that 22 months after it was implemented, the Soft Drinks Industry Levy was associated with a 12 per cent reduction in admissions amongst children aged 0 to 18 years.
Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children, with over 42,000 extractions taking place in NHS hospitals in England last year on patients aged 18 or under.
The levy took out 47,000 tonnes of sugar from soft drinks in its first four years as it encouraged drinks manufacturers to reduce sugar levels to avoid the tax. The BDA stress its effectiveness is in sharp contrast to voluntary appeals to the food industry from the government.
Dentist leaders believe the expansion of the levy into other product ranges – including milk-based drinks, biscuits, cakes, sweets, yoghurts and cereals - would drive widespread reformulation of high-sugar foods and need not raise costs for consumers.
Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said, “The sugar levy is delivering the goods in the fight against decay, so it’s time to double down.
“This isn’t about adding to the cost of living. When voluntary action has clearly failed, this shows government must force industry’s hand on cutting sugar.”