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Belgian Institute Slams U-Turn On Soft Drinks Tax

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

19 September 2013


The Flemish institute for the promotion of health and the prevention of illnesses (VIGeZ) has lamented the Belgian Health Minister's decision to abandon plans for a tax on sugary drinks.

Following an in-depth consultation with the country's food and drink industry, Belgian Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx confirmed the Government's u-turn on plans for a soft drinks tax. The Government had been mulling the idea of the levy as part of efforts to reduce the consumption of soft drinks with a high sugar content in Belgium.

Questioning the basis on which the Government had made its decision, and whether or not academic experts, nutritionists, ethicists, and health economists had been involved in the decision-making, VIGeZ insisted that many questions remain unanswered. Furthermore, the institute criticized the Government's decision to opt instead for a different approach, namely encouraging producers to use less sugar. A soft drink with less sugar remains a food product that is simply not necessary, the institute argued.

As a first step, VIGeZ urged the Government to set up a group of industry experts to lead a thorough investigation into the advantages and disadvantages of such a sugary drinks tax, assessing its usefulness and feasibility. An impact study is vital before the measure is definitively ruled out, the institute stressed.

Concluding, VIGeZ warned that many questions regarding taxes on unhealthy food products remain unanswered, notably the administrative costs involved, the effects on disadvantaged groups, and where the taxes should begin and end, for example, should soft drinks be subject to taxation or sugar in general.

TAGS: tax | Belgium | food

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