Consumer advocates and health experts are urging the sugar content in soft drinks such as cola to be reduced more quickly. The voluntary reduction is not progressing, criticized the German Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases, which includes associations and medical societies. Appeals to the industry were not enough. The federal government must take “effective measures” so that the sugar content drops significantly. The co-governing SPD also brought up a levy on heavily sugared drinks based on the British model. The industry emphasized that the reduction was “on the right track”.

The consumer organization Foodwatch explained that the voluntary principle had failed in the fight against malnutrition and obesity. Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) must give up the previous strategy and introduce a soda tax like in Great Britain. It has been proven that it gives manufacturers incentives to use less sugar. The general local health insurance companies (AOK) called for a change of course. “The slow pace of sugar reduction is absolutely unacceptable,” said the head of the federal association, Carola Reimann. She called for an “effective and mandatory sugar reduction” for soft drinks.

The background is a strategy started by the previous federal government to gradually reduce the content of sugar, fat and salt in finished products through voluntary commitments. To this end, agreements have been made with the sectors. According to this, the sugar content in soft drinks should drop by 15 percent by 2025. According to the Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases, its own evaluation showed that the average sugar content in soft drinks fell by around two percent from 2015 to 2021. If this continues, the 15 percent target will only be reached in decades.

efforts on a successful path

The Non-Alcoholic Beverages Association declared on behalf of the industry that the efforts of companies to reduce sugar were on the right track. “All the data we know about market development show that voluntary calorie reduction works,” said General Manager Detlef Groß. He also pointed to numerous offers of calorie-free and reduced-calorie variants, which would also be advertised more intensively.

In the course of the planned review of industry commitments, the state-owned Max Rubner Institute 2020 presented an evaluation of soft drinks, among other things. It said that compared to a survey from 2018, the sugar content across the entire range of soft drinks had fallen by 3.2 percent on average.

The SPD member of the Bundestag Peggy Schierenbeck said: “It is the task of the state to ensure healthier food.” A manufacturer levy on beverages if a limit of five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters is exceeded would help prevent obesity, particularly among children and young people. The SPD wants to talk to the coalition partners about the details of a levy and how to deal with sweeteners.