Sugar shamers, stay out of the pantry

View From the Paddock

Trent Thorne, agribusiness lawyer.

Trent Thorne, agribusiness lawyer.


A sugar tax discourages individual freedom and fails to treat the vast majority of the population as adults, according to View From the Paddock columnist, Trent Thorne.


The sugar industry has had it fair share of scrapes over the past few years, namely:

⦁ ensuring that its practices are environmentally sustainable to safeguard the health of the Reef; and

⦁ dealing with the not insubstantial imbroglio relating to choice and competition in sugar marketing. 

However, the next looming crisis should be of major concern as the foodie shibboleths - the sugar-shamers - are out to tax the industry in a major way.

There is no doubt that sugar is now firmly in the spotlight of the eternally outraged, as the latest food to be cast in the role of Satan. We are now told that sugar is as bad as tobacco, an addictive drug and akin to poison. 

Sugar, for many people, is associated with childhood, happiness, reward and indulgence.  

And here’s a newsflash - it tastes bloody good. It should not be used as the basis for excommunication or sugar-shaming smarm. 

The science of nutrition is complex, but what to eat is actually simple – humans are omnivores, who survive on many different diets in many different places. Moderation and exercise are key.

Recommending new taxes should not be done lightly. But the Grattan Institute and the Obesity Policy Coalition have released reports seeking the imposition of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.  

Where do I even start with these reports? Firstly, while obesity’s incidence has increased, per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has fallen, with a proportion of young children consuming these drinks halving from 1995 to 2012.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are consumed by more than 80 per cent of the population, with the vast majority of these consumers being neither obese, nor likely to become so, yet such a tax will also impact on their choices.  

Such a tax discourages individual freedom and fails to treat the vast majority of the population as adults. If your preferred method of avoiding obesity is to consume sugar in all its glorious forms then run a marathon … you’re out of luck.

The final glaring problem with this proposed tax is that its focuses on soft drinks as a soft target, but what about other beverage alternatives, such as fruit juice, that contain sugar? 

On this issue, governments of all persuasions, should stay out of the pantry.

 – Trent Thorne, agribusiness lawyer

The story Sugar shamers, stay out of the pantry first appeared on Queensland Country Life.


From the front page

Sponsored by