Governments should tax sugary drinks to fight the global epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the World Health Organization said today, recommendations industry swiftly branded "discriminatory" and "unproven".
A 20 percent price increase could reduce consumption of sweet drinks by the same proportion, the WHO said in a report issued on World Obesity Day.
Drinking fewer calorific sweet drinks is the best way to curb excessive weight and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, although fat and salt in processed foods are also at fault, the organization said.
Global obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014, with 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women classified as obese - more than 500 million people.
The global soft drink market is worth nearly $870 billion in annual sales. 2016 could be the year of the sugar tax, as several large nations consider levies on sweetened food and drinks to battle obesity and fatten government coffers.
The U.S.-based soft drinks industry's lobbying arm - whose members include Coca-Cola Co, Pepsico Inc and Red Bull - strongly disagreed with what it called "discriminatory taxation".
A comprehensive approach based on the whole diet was needed for a lasting solution to obesity, it said.
The non-alcoholic beverage industry was making available more options with fewer calories and reformulating existing drinks to reduce calories significantly, the group said.
The WHO said there is increasing evidence that taxes and subsidies influence purchasing behavior and could be used to curb consumption of sweet drinks.
In Mexico, a tax rise in 2014 led to a 10 percent price hike and a 6 percent drop in purchases by year-end, the report said.
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