VAT: a precise mechanism to identify drug-food companies

Kate Cooper, James Parle, John D Middleton

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The impact of drug-foods (tobacco and cane sugar, cocoa and caffeine) and the consequences of their production on the health of both public and planet are wide ranging and increasing from obesity to pressure on water supply. The world’s food system is dominated by a small number of global corporations making and promoting drug-foods in myriad forms. The use of sugar-substitute non-sugar sweeteners, and their design of products, are specifically formulated to be ‘moreish’, to stimulate pleasure responses above and beyond the natural pleasure of eating. In the UK we can identify these foods, and the corporations that make them, since Value Added Tax (VAT) is applied. We suggest that, for food and drink upon which UK VAT is levied, advertising and product placement should be prohibited and controls put on branding and packaging. We further suggest action is taken to: (i) restrain the activities of the companies making these products, (ii) prohibit their sponsorship and/or partnership with government bodies such as schools and NHS, (iii) ensure these corporations pay the full fiscal and environmental costs of drug-foods. Our urgent challenge is to act against the sociopathic power of such corporations, for the public health and that of the planet.
Original languageEnglish
Article number fdac030
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2022


  • food choice
  • food and nutrition
  • environment


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