A furious row erupted after it emerged that the Government could axe plans to introduce a sugar tax.
Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly rejected the proposal for a sugar tax of up to 20 per cent, and will instead use the threat of a levy to pressure companies into reformulating their products to reduce sugar content.
While reports of the abandoned tax will be welcomed by the food and drinks industry, which has opposed the proposed levy, anti-obesity campaigners have reacted with exasperation.
Tam Fry, spokesman for National Obesity Forum, said: “The decision must be reversed or it will be more proof that the Government is in the thrall of the food industry and the sugar barons will have won yet again.
"NHS chiefs know full well that the combination of child and adult obesity could topple the UK's most cherished institution.”
Graham MacGregor, chairman and founder of Action on Sugar, said: “It seems to me that Cameron is being very stupid rejecting this.
“All the experts agree that the plan we have will prevent childhood obesity and type 2 Diabetes. Everything he does ends up in chaos, this was his one opportunity to achieve a legacy. He will be a Prime Minister who has achieved nothing.”
MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, added: “We won’t stop and if the UK doesn’t want to stop doing it, we will go to another country like Argentina or Chile which are much better organised in terms of public health and nutrition.”
Meanwhile, Brook Whelan, chief executive for People against Sugar Tax said: "We are pleased to see that David Cameron recognises the regressive impact a sugar tax would have had on poorer families. This is a victory for common sense."
The Government's childhood obesity strategy, which is due to be unveiled in the coming weeks, will reportedly recommend that junk food adverts should be banned from being screened near "family programmes" such as The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
A feasibility study is likely to be launched to establish how a compulsory sugar tax could work if firms do not take adequate measures.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Our childhood obesity strategy will look at everything, including sugar, that contributes to a child becoming overweight and obese. It will also set out what more can be done by all sides."
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