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Belgium's new sugar tax is half-baked, admits health minister

06:59 13/10/2015

The Belgian government's new tax on soft drinks also applies to diet drinks and even sugar-free drinks, the Belgian media recently brought to light. It was not feasible to differentiate between the different soft drink categories in the short term, argues public health minister Maggie De Block.

The minister does, however, admit that the measure is far from perfect. "This is a first step. The sugar tax is still in the works, while the framework of the tax shift is moving along somewhat faster," she says in Het Nieuwsblad.

The measure will see the cost of a one litre bottle of soda increase by three euro cents from next year, and a 33cl can by one cent. Figures from 2012 show that each Belgian drinks an average of 108 litres of soda annually, which means an additional income of €3.24 per person per year for the federal government, or a total yield of about €50 million.

Nutritionists are skeptical of the new sugar tax that is part of the tax shift agreement introduced by the government under Charles Michel, especially now that it appears that the tax also applies to soft drinks without sugar. "The government simply needed money. Let's then call it a flat tax, not a health tax," nutritionist Patrick Mullie (VUB) told Het Nieuwsblad.

Soft drink producers are also critical of the new tax, claiming that half of the soft drinks sold in Belgium are of the sugar-free variety, and should therefore not be additionally taxed, according to industry federation Fevia.

Written by Robyn Boyle