The head of Public Health England is being hauled before MPs amid accusations vital evidence is being withheld about the merits of a sugar tax.
I don’t know why this is happening (although I have some suspicions) but a failure by Public Health England to publish a report on sugar reduction (and sugar tax) is delaying the government’s new child obesity strategy.
In fact, Mr Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE, has been asked to appear in front of the Commons Health Select Committee on Monday.
Advisers told the Commons Health Select Committee that studies suggested a tax of 20p per litre on sugar-sweetened beverages would prevent 180,000 cases of obesity in the UK and raise between £300m and £1bn of revenue.
Yet, the report on sugar reduction from PHE is delayed and MPs say they need to see the report in order to make recommendations ahead of the government’s new child obesity strategy.
The head of the Commons Health Select committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, has accused Public Health England of obstructing its inquiry into child obesity by refusing to publish the report.
In a strongly worded letter to Mr Selbie she said: “The evidence you have assembled is crucial to the committee’s ability to consider what the policy priorities should be for addressing childhood obesity.
“Delayed publication is as harmful as non-publication if this means that the public and health professionals wishing to influence the content of the obesity strategy do not have access to the data before the ink is dry on the obesity strategy.”
The government’s obesity strategy will consider a number of measures to help prevent children becoming overweight or obese and one of the most controversial is a mandatory tax on sugary fizzy drinks.
The financial costs of obesity are rising fast – for healthcare and in the economy. In fact, obesity costs the UK economy nearly £47 billion a year, according to a study by consultancy firm McKinsey and Company
However, we only spend about 1% of the country’s social cost of obesity, on obesity prevention.
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