The industry considers the rise in VAT on soft drinks "unfair and discriminatory", while some nutritionists call it "insufficient"
Although the increase in VAT on soft drinks, which will go from 10 to 21%, must be specified in the General State Budgets that have yet to be presented and negotiated, they have already raised dust between the food industry and nutritionists.
For the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), which has published a harsh statement just after the news, the measure is "unfair and discriminatory" and "only has a collection effect that will also have a more serious impact on the most disadvantaged incomes, those most affected by the crisis ”. The Refreshing Drinks Association (Anfabra) has the same opinion, which also points out that the measure has "a clear ideological component."
For its part, the National Association of Juice Manufacturers of Spain, another of the affected beverages, "is concerned about the measure", since juices cannot by law contain added sugars or sweeteners and this measure also represents a clear attack against the interests of Spanish producers of citrus, peaches, grapes and other fruit and vegetable sectors, since a possible decrease in juice consumption would also affect this producing sector.
The three employers also emphasize that the measure will have a special impact on the hospitality sector. "With this measure, which is going to significantly reduce consumption, the Government also shows a great lack of sensitivity with a sector such as the hotel and catering industry, seriously affected by the pandemic," says the general director of FIAB, Mauricio García de Quevedo.
What is a tax on soft drinks for
Although Anfabra assures that "it has no scientific rigor to want to tax sugary or sweetened beverages", the truth is that the impact that taxes of this type have on health has been studied quite a lot, especially with regard to sugary drinks.
With the new tax, a can of soda with a price of € 0.69 would cost € 0.76.
Already in 2016, the WHO asked to tax this type of drink to curb obesity, type 2 diabetes and cavities. And, in fact, it recommended that governments implement fiscal measures that would lead to an increase in the price of soft drinks "of at least 20%."
For the nutritionist Juan Revenga, who has been asking for public taxes for these drinks for years, the Government's announcement, although going in the right direction, falls short: “It is a visual measure, facing the gallery, very impressive, but the increase the final price is very small ”. With the new tax, a can of soda with a price of € 0.69 would cost € 0.76.
In Revenga's opinion, fiscal measures do not have much practical use if they are not accompanied by additional policies that reinforce these: “Tax policies have to go hand in hand with subsidies that promote healthy foods. It is also necessary to deduct healthy products, reducing VAT, for example, on fresh products ”.
For the dietician-nutritionist Daniel Ursúa this step should be the first of many: “If what we want is to educate the population and understand that this type of soft drink cannot be a product of habitual consumption, regulation must go hand in hand of Education. If not, we will only be ensuring that people who cannot afford it, do not consume it ”.
At @consumogob we work on measures to end childhood obesity:- Ministry of Consumption (@consumogob) September 30, 2020
🥫 Implement Nutriscore labeling
🍬 Taxing sugary drinks
🍽 Improve nutrition in schools
📺 Change the values of children's advertising
Report # Aladino2019 👉 https://t.co/67PKzbk4a6 pic.twitter.com/jbuH0jp18y
In reality, the tax hike is part of a strategy announced by Alberto Garzón's portfolio that also includes implementing the controversial Nutriscore labeling, improving nutrition in schools and changing the values of advertising for children, issues that are they are discussing in parallel with the industry.
In Revenga's opinion "taxes are a way of distracting attention from what really interests the industry, which is the management of advertising."
Does it make sense to tax sweetened drinks and juices?
Although everyone expected such a measure, which had already been announced by the new Ministry of Consumer Affairs, they did not expect that the tax would include sweetened beverages and juices equally.
Unlike sugar, whose health effects have been widely studied, sweeteners continue to be the subject of scientific controversy. "Their negative effect on metabolism has been studied a lot, and there is some preliminary science that indicates that they are not as safe as it has been made to see in the long term, but the evidence is not conclusive", admits Revenga.
In his opinion, however, it is "a huge advance" that sweetened beverages are included, since the problem is not only sugar, but the consumption of soft drinks in general "is associated with unhealthy eating patterns."