WHO Backs Down on Recommending Soda Tax

Move a contradiction of organization's past positions

lempert report

The Trump administration has torpedoed a plan to recommend higher taxes on sugary drinks, forcing a World Health Organization (WHO) panel to back off the U.N. agency’s previous call for such taxes as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions. 

The Associated Press reports that the reason the WHO committee on preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) did not recommend soda taxes is that the U.S. representative vetoed the idea. 

The WHO commissioners said in their report that some recommendations, such as reducing sugar consumption through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and the accountability of the private sector, could not be reflected in this report, despite broad support from many commissioners. 

As a result, it did not include soda taxes in its tax recommendation.

Here is its recommendation: implement fiscal measures, including raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and consider evidence-based fiscal measures for other unhealthy products. No definition of soda being an unhealthy product is mentioned. 

Sort of odd considering WHO has voiced strong previous positions on reducing sugars and taxing sodas as a means to achieve those goals.

  • In 2015, WHO recommended sugars be consumed at less than 10% of calories.
  • In 2016, WHO recommended taxes on sugary drinks as a way to reduce sugar intake and prevent NCDs. 

Marion Nestle in her Food Politics blog said it best: “SHAME." 


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