Fizzy drink tax is latest weapon to hit obesity
DOCTOR James Reilly targets sugar in bid to tackle childhood obesity.
The Minister for Health wants to bring in the 'sugar tax' on food and beverages associated with weight gain among youngsters.
Dr Reilly pointed to the example of Paris, where officials will introduce a 19.6pc tax on soft drinks in addition to the existing 5.5pc VAT.
Sugary drinks are a "big issue" as research has indicated some children are gaining "half of their calorie count in liquid form", he said, describing the situation as "very worrying".
Dr Reilly said sports drinks were also causing difficulties as they were advertised as helping people to perform better on the pitch.
But this only applied to athletes at peak fitness and the products make "absolutely no difference" to most of us "apart from causing us to gain weight".
The minister said the new tax was one of a number of issues being considered by the Special Action Group on Obesity, which is to report back later this year.
However, Food and Drink Industry Ireland said the move would mean job losses.
It said the sector has a turnover close to €24bn, making it Ireland's most important indigenous industry.
It added that a "discriminatory tax" would potentially stunt future growth and ultimately result in job losses.
In France, Coca Cola reacted to the levy by threatening to put on hold plans for a €17m expansion of its plant, the group pointed out.
Dr Reilly has not said yet how large any sugar tax would be. He added that the industry was on notice and criticised the lack of a voluntary code around calorie display.
Department of Health officials have been in contact with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office in New York to see how the city tackled similar issues.
In 2008, New York led the way in the US by requiring restaurant chains to display calorie information on menus.
Dr Reilly's officials met with representatives from the food and drink industry during the summer.
He is now to write to food companies in Ireland asking that they introduce calorie counts in their restaurants.
The government in France expects to generate an extra €120m a year for the treasury with its sugar tax.