SCOTLAND's food regulator is pushing for a sugar tax to cover sweet treats like chocolate, ice cream and cake and wants a calorie cap on 'eating out' as part of a bid to tackle the nation's obesity crisis.
Food Standards Scotland want the sugar tax currently imposed on soft drinks to be extended generally to all high sugar products and calorie limits could be set on food eaten in takeaways, pubs and restaurants such as fish suppers.
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But the manufacturers body, the Food and Drink Federation said any extension of the sugar tax was "premature".
Some 61 per cent of Scots saying they know they need to do something to eat more healthily – up by 10 per cent in a year.
FSS said the issue was costing the Scottish economy £2.37bn a year and that tougher regulation was needed to make food eaten outside of the home more healthy.
It warned that as many as 40 per cent of Scots will be expected to be obese by 2030 without effective action and that it was "a major risk in the sustainability of a productive economy".
The government food advisers, who have made a series of recommendations to tackle obesity, say there should also be more regulation of the promotion of unhealthy foods and drinks, such as high in fat, sugar or salt.
They believe their suggestions could lead to the reformulation of sweet foods to make them more healthy and the reduction of portion sizes.
FSS chairman Ross Finnie said: " Because there has been no change in the obesity rate for 15 years, we believe government could not and should not rule out introducing a sugar tax that would encompass not just sugar drinks but also [all] products that had an excessive rate of free sugars contained in them."
Irn-Bru maker AG Barr was the the latest to give in to the so-called sugar tax, currently limited to drinks, when it announced last week it was cutting the amount of the sweet stuff from its best known brands.
The Lanarkshire-based firm which has previously criticised the "punitive" crackdown on the fizzy drinks industry and the "significant weight of negative media coverage" of sugary drinks, said that 90 per cent of its brands will contain less than 5g of total sugar per 100ml by the autumn of this year.
Mr Finnie said the response to the introduction of the sugar tax shows that remaking other sweet treats to cut the sugar content can be done.
Nestle has just announce that chocolate bars including famous brands such as Kit Kat, Yorkie and Aero will contain 10% less sugar by next year.
The sugar will be replaced with higher quantities of existing ingredients or other, non-artificial ingredients, and the amount of calories will be limited.
It means about 7,500 tonnes less sugar will be used to make the confectioner's products by 2018.
Mr Finnie said: "Our view is that if even the threat of a sugar drinks tax, means serious players in the industry now indicate that it is possible to reformulate.. the government should examine a wider tax to encompass a whole load of products that have excessive levels of free sugars."
FSS said that its suggested 'calorie cap' would help reduced portion size of main meals and called for clear nutritional information to be available to consumers.
Mr Finnie said there would need to be an agreement over what a reasonable portion is. The watchdog also wants to commission further work to explore how further regulation would be effective in "rebalancing promotions in favour of healthier food and drink".
It will ask Scottish ministers to "argue strongly" for restrictions on the advertising of unhealthy food to children and to extend that to non-broadcast media.
The FSS also want to give business a 12 month period to come up with "an alternative acceptable solution" to an extended sugar tax.
Lorraine Tulloch of Obesity Action Scotland, welcomed the FSS moves saying: “The need for action is now urgent and inevitable. A broad alliance of organisations is imploring Scottish Government to take regulatory action on several levels. "This is an urgent issue and whilst we wait for action, avoidable cases of cancer and diabetes are being diagnosed in the Scottish population.
"We need to see bold and ambitious action now to change the food environment to make the healthy choice, the easy choice.”
Tim Rycroft, corporate affairs director of the manufacturers body, the Food and Drink Federation said: "Taxes haven't been proven to be an effective means of lowering obesity rates. An extension of the soft drinks levy, which hasn't yet been introduced, would be extremely premature."
He said he was “disappointed” that regulation of promotions within retail premises was suggested as a priority as it was a “hugely complicated area for legislation and limits choice”.
And he added: “We look forward to working in partnership with FSS and the Scottish Government to help all parts of the food industry play their part in tackling obesity.”