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A Tax on Sugar?

FILE - Sugar-sweetened drinks in a store's refrigerator, Feb. 20, 2013

FILE - Sugar-sweetened drinks in a store's refrigerator, Feb. 20, 2013

The World Health Organization says people around the world are eating more sugar. As a result, it says, health problems related to weight gain and tooth damage are increasing. Sugary foods and drinks cause tooth decay, weakening the bone.

The WHO finds that, on average, the amount of sugar in the foods we eat has risen about 10 percent over the past 10 years. But it has risen at a faster rate in some areas. In the Middle East and North Africa, sugar intake has risen about 15 percent over the past 10 years. In some Asian and Pacific countries, sugar intake is 20 percent higher.

And in South America, people eat more sugar than anywhere else in the world. Francesco Branca is director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health.

“In South America, we have approximately 130 grams per person, per day, so much more than twice the WHO recommendation, but we also have some parts of the world where the intake is still low. It is within the WHO recommendations, such as what is happening in Equatorial and Southern Africa, where it is about 30 grams per person, per day.”

Mr. Branca says reducing how much sugar you eat can be difficult because so many cooks and food-makers add sugar. He says researchers found that 80 percent of the food items in U.S. markets included some kind of sugar.

“Just to give you an example, an average size bowl of breakfast cereal contains four teaspoons of free sugars. If you go for a U.S.-size can of soda that contains 10 teaspoons of free sugars.”

The WHO is calling on governments to take measures to reduce how much sugar people eat. It proposes taxing products with a lot of sugar and requiring food-makers to list how much sugar can be found in their products. Another proposal is to restrict marketing of sugary foods and drinks to children.

However, the United Nations agency says it is fine to eat foods that naturally have sugar, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and even milk.

I’m Jim Tedder.

*This report was based on a story from reporter Lisa Schlein in Geneva. Kelly Jean Kelly wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

breakfast cereals - n. foods made from grain that people often eat as the first meal of the day. Cereal is usually eaten in a bowl with milk.

sugary - adj. tasting like sugar or containing a lot of sugar

intaken. a food, drink or other substance taken in; the act of taking in (eating, drinking or swallowing)

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