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Sugar lobby in Ireland deserve short shrift – Boylan

8 August, 2016 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan today reacted to criticisms from the Irish Beverage Council to the proposed sugar tax by saying that keeping the profit margins of the sugar industry healthy to date is leading to an increasingly unhealthy society. 

Ms Boylan said:

“Ireland is currently the fourth biggest consumer of sugar in the world which explains to some extent how we’ve been landed with the dubious honour of becoming ‘the fat man of Europe’. Indeed, estimates put us on course as having the highest obesity levels in Europe by 2030 with the levels rising the fastest amongst the poorest in society.

“The indignant outcry from the Irish Beverage Council on the sugar tax is nothing new in a long history of sugar industry lobbying against public health measures which threaten to minimise their profit margins. Unfortunately, keeping their profit margins healthy to date is leading to an increasingly unhealthy society. 

“So important are these profit margins to the food and drink industry in Ireland and Brussels that they are willing to spend millions on aggressive lobbying to ensure that any potential public health measures which could affect their profits are snuffed out. 

“Transparency campaigners Corporate Europe Observatory recently found that trade lobbyists Food and Drink Europe, of which the Irish Beverage Council are unsurprisingly members, had spent a staggering €1 Billion to successfully defeat a traffic-light food labelling scheme which would have been able to communicate the health profile of foods in a clear way for consumers.  

“It is clear that the sugar industry’s deep pockets and aggressive lobbying tactics are having their desired effect. 

“This year, the European Commission shockingly attempted to push through a proposal which would have permitted baby food sold in Europe to be comprised of 30% sugar, going against common sense, warnings by the World Health Organisation and outrage from health NGOs and politicians. 

“Before the vote in the European Parliament I called on fellow MEPs to reject this appalling proposal. Thankfully, most MEPs did so but I was disappointed to see that the Fine Gael MEPs ignored health concerns and voted to allow such seriously high levels of sugar in food for babies. 

“I call on the government to ensure that such lobbying from the sugar industry on the sugar tax is given short shrift. They must also give a commitment to work much harder to deliver a consistent message on sugar industry influence on public health measures, sending out a clear message that this type of lobbying won’t be tolerated in Ireland or Europe.” 

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