Australia Needs A Sugar Tax: Senate report

A sugar tax should be slapped on soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, a Senate inquiry into Australia's obesity epidemic has recommended.

Greens leader and committee chair Richard Di Natale, who is a former general practitioner, said similar taxes in other countries had led to manufacturers reducing sugar content in products.

"This isn't just something that affects consumption, but it also affects production and what we see is healthier products being made available," Di Natale told parliament.

The report released on Wednesday also calls for restrictions on food and drink advertising on free-to-air television until 9pm.

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It found the health star rating system should be made mandatory by 2020, with inconsistencies in the calculation addressed and the treatment of fruit juices and added sugar looked at.

The rating calculator for high sugar, sodium and saturated fat foods should also be updated.

Children and their parents need to be better informed about the nutritional value of the foods and drinks advertised, the committee found.

"This is a major health issue. We have an epidemic of chronic disease looming over the horizon and we have an urgent need to address this issue," Di Natale said.

Both major parties opposed a sugar tax and advertising restrictions, with Labor and coalition senators issuing dissenting reports.

The committee's report also recommended more funding for public education programs and a national task force to implement the findings of the inquiry.

The National Obesity Taskforce would drive campaigns would build on cultural practices and improve nutrition literacy and behaviours around diet, physical activity and well-being.

READ MORE: Australia’s Rate Of Severe Obesity Has Doubled

In 2014/15, 63 percent of Australian adults were overweight or obese. Seventy-one per cent of men were overweight or obese, compared with 56 per cent of women.

In the same year 20 percent of children aged between two and four were overweight or obese, along with 27 aged between five and 17.

READ MORE: Cut The Sugar And Cut The Cancer Risk

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