A tax on sugar will not solve the obesity crisis, the chief executive of the independent social enterprise think tank 2020health has warned. 

Julia Manning told British Baker a more holistic approach was needed to tackle the ‘complex issue’ and called for ‘highest level Cobra style meetings’ to show a cross-departmental, serious commitment to tackling obesity, which is currently heavily focussed on diet.

Her comments come on the back of a 2020health report published yesterday which found that obesity rates were linked not only to lower socio-economic groups, but  also men from the middle and upper financial classes.

The Fat Chance study, which analysed 16 data-sets to determine who is obese in the UK, also revealed that the prevalence of fast food outlets near places of work had a significant impact on the BMI of men, while the lack of green space in a local environment had an influence on obesity rates in girls in particular.

In addition, the report uncovered that half of all people suffering with psychosis are obese, while parental obesity – especially in mothers – is a far more predictive factor than ethnicity.

"It should be needless to say, but our obesity problem is so severe it cannot be solved by something as simplistic as a Sugar Tax, and our research shows that there are many complex factors that have a major impact on obesity rates,” Manning told British Baker.


“These findings blow apart assumptions on ‘who’ becomes obese, confirming the incredibly complex nature of the challenge that we face to improve the health of the nation. There are numerous structural, social and behavioural factors which appear to be influencing poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Only by understanding these factors will we be able to address the rapidly rising rates of obesity.”

The report comes just weeks after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver called on the government to implement a tax on sugary foods and drink.

Yesterday, a poll of 1704 consumers by market research company Future Thinking revealed that almost half (49%) were against the introduction of a sugar tax, while just over a third (35%) were in favour of one. 16% did not have an opinion.