Forty per cent of products is escaping the ten per cent tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB), prompting a researcher at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies to recommend adjustments to close the loophole.
Miriam Alvarado is suggesting that the definition of taxable goods be amended to include a broader range of products such as powdered juices and other types of drinks like mauby.
The Gates Scholar and PhD candidate has been conducting research into SSBs since 2015, the year Barbados became one of the few countries to implement the measure.
Utilizing research from The Health of the Nation Study, she found that about 75 per cent of the people surveyed consumed an equal amount of taxed and untaxed SSBs. Men were consuming significantly more of the taxed drinks, which, she said, was likely due to their preference for energy drinks.
“What we found was that sugary drink levels are extremely high in Barbados. Nine out of ten adults report drinking SSBs on any given day. Of those, they are drinking quite a lot of them, two and a half servings, which is four or five times higher than the global average,” Alvarado noted.
She reminded that SSB’s were linked to increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, obesity and dental cavities.
The ten per cent tax is paid by manufacturers and distributors and has reportedly resulted in an approximate six per cent increase in the retail prices of affected products. The PhD candidate said upcoming research will show this has been linked to a decrease in the sale of SSBs.
The Cave Hill researcher told Barbados TODAY the decision by the government to implement the tax was sensible but added that accompanying intervention was necessary to achieve the maximum benefit.
“There’s also scope to, perhaps, have more awareness and education around the fact that this free sugars (any sugars added to a food or drink) tend to be quite a health risk for many persons and those aren’t only sugars found in carbonated drinks like sodas but also in things like juices. Even the 100 per cent fruit juices have so much sugar that from that perspective they may not be the healthiest choice,” she added.
Alvarado was among several researchers who presented their work at the recently-held 7th Annual Faculty of Medical Sciences Graduate Symposium of UWI, Cave Hill.
Her presentation was titled, Using nutritional survey data to inform the design of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in low-resource contexts: a cross-sectional analysis based on data from an adult Caribbean population.
Just last year, Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre Professor Alafia Samuels recommended a doubling of the SSB tax as a more effective deterrent. She said research has shown that in 2010, 33 per cent of nine and ten-year-olds were overweight or obese, an increase from 8.5 per cent in 1981.
The director also agreed that additional intervention was needed.