A sugar and salt tax for hospitality businesses is being proposed in the second part of the National Food Strategy calling on the government to commit to an historic package of reforms in order to build a better food system for a healthier nation.
It is one of the recommendations in a landmark report by food entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of natural food brand Leon.
It has been suggested that the government introduce a £3 per kilogram tax on sugar and a £6 per kilogram tax on salt sold wholesale for use in processed foods, or in restaurants and catering businesses.
Dimbleby hopes that this would create an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the levels of sugar and salt in their products, by reformulating their recipes or reducing their portion sizes.
The sugar and salt tax could raise £2.9bn to £3.4bn per year for the Treasury, some of which would be used to expand free school meals and support the diets of those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
As part of the 14 recommendations, Dimbleby has also proposed introducing mandatory reporting for large food companies.
The report recommended the introduction of a statutory duty for all food companies – including those in hospitality – with more than 250 employees to publish an annual report on their sales of various food types, including fruit, vegetables, different types of protein and products high in fat, sugar or salt.
The report sets out how our diets will need to change over the next ten years in order to meet the government’s existing targets on health, climate and nature. By 2032, fruit and vegetable consumption will have to increase by 30%, and fibre consumption by 50%, while consumption of food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar will have to go down by 25%, and meat consumption should reduce by 30%.
Backers of the report include chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver, Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The National Food Strategy represents an opportunity to identify and tackle the challenges facing hospitality, as well as wider society and the world.
As a battered and debt-ridden hospitality sector navigates its way out of the pandemic crisis, the recommendations for equipping our future workforce are very positive elements of the findings.
The report’s measures to improve healthy eating are, essentially, a continuation of the successful efforts of hospitality venues over recent years. We are hopeful, though, any such initiatives are taken at a pace that recognises the dire state of the sector as it looks to recover from the Covid crisis, but with appropriate consultation, so we can best achieve lasting improvements collaboratively and without damaging recovery.”
Boris Johnson says he is not attracted to proposals and Environment Secretary George Eustace said: “We will carefully consider the report’s conclusions and respond with a white paper within six months, setting out our priorities for the food system”.