Children's Minister would like to see sugar tax in upcoming budget

The Government launched a ten-year strategy to tackle obesity today

Children's Minister would like to see sugar tax in upcoming budget

Katherine Zappone. Image: RollingNews.ie

The Children's Minister says it has not yet been decided whether or not a sugar tax will be included in next year's budget.

Minister Katherine Zappone says she would like to see a sugar tax, which is in the Programme for Government, to be introduced as soon as possible.

A ten-year strategy to tackle obesity was launched by the Health Minister Simon Harris earlier today.

It aims to help adults and children to reduce their excess weight by 0.5% a year.

Among the 60 measures include the creation of 'No Fry Zones' around schools and hospitals, a revised food pyramid and recommendations that food companies reduce levels of salt, sugar and fat.

Children were also consulted on the plan, and they will be helped through education programmes at school.

The plan has been described as incredibly ambitious, and Minister Harris has said there will be funding for the strategy.

Details of Budget 2017 are due to be announced next month, but Minister Zappone says whether it will include a sugar tax is undecided.

She told Newstalk Drive: "There is a commitment to that in the Programme for Government. It would be my hope we would see it now, in terms of this budget.

"But it is Minister Noonan who is making that decision, and that has not been made public yet."

With two-in-three Irish adults and one-in-four Irish children overweight or obese, health professionals say we are on course to become the fattest country in Europe by 2030 – unless urgent measures are introduced.

The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland has welcomed the new Government plan, but says it is vital that it is fully resourced.

Prof Donal O’Shea, co-chair of Ireland’s Policy Group on Obesity, said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the success of Healthy Ireland depends on the implementation of this obesity policy and action plan, which follows the national physical activity plan.

"The number of people who require bariatric surgery and other treatments is very significant and this plan acknowledges the need for further investment in this type of treatment to address health issues in people who currently are experience poor quality of life as a result of their weight."

He added that the group believes waiting for another year for a sugar tax "is a lost opportunity".