Easter eggs should be subject to the same sugar tax as fizzy drinks, according to some dentistry experts, as the number of children with tooth decay increases for the fourth year running.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, told KCW Today, “Over the last year more than 40,000 children were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions under general anaesthetic. This is completely heart-breaking, and is entirely as the result of an excess of sugar.”
NHS figures obtained by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) also show worrying signs for the state of the nations teeth. There were 9,206 tooth extractions performed on children aged four and under in 2015-16, an increase of 24 per cent since 2006-07.
In response to these figures, Philip Hammond’s 2017 budget introduced a sugar tax on fizzy drinks. Two bands have been applied to the sugar laden beverages, one for total sugar content above 5g per 100 millilitres and a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100 millilitres. The tax hike will be introduced this month, but some dentistry experts are claiming the tariff should also be extended to Easter eggs.
Following a review by Wren Kitchens, it was found that almost all of the UK’s best-selling Easter eggs exceeded the maximum daily allowance of sugar for children, with the largest of these treats equaling two-weeks worth of a small child’s sugar consumption.
Nestle, the producers of confectionary including Aero, KitKat, Smarties and Toffee Crisp, sell a 100g milk chocolate egg, which harbours 522 calories and 61g of sugar, exceeding all daily sugar guidelines. The famous Cadbury’s Crème Egg, exclusive to the Easter period, also exceeds the maximum amount of daily sugar intake for both children and adults. Even Easter eggs with comparably ‘low’ sugar content such as the organic dark chocolate egg from Green & Blacks, comes in at 580 calories and 28.5g of sugar.
John Mantel, a principal dentist at 32Whites said, “A sugar tax on sugary drinks is a step in the right direction but is it enough? Easter eggs are just a small piece of the puzzle but the sheer volume of sugar contained in them just shows how accustomed we’ve become to excessive quantities of added sugar to our children’s diet,” he said.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE disagrees, believing that Easter eggs should not be taxed anymore than standard chocolate bars. But he warns against giving children too many chocolate eggs at Easter.
He told KCW Today, “Given that we only eat Easter eggs once a year, I don’t think this should fall into an added or special tax but we should try and just stick to one egg each. I would advise against people buying each other multiple eggs, this is common at Easter with children receiving chocolate from parents as well as both sets of grandparents for instance. This is the sort of increase in sugar consumption we want to avoid.”
Government recommendations suggest adults should eat no more than 30g of added sugar per day, while children aged four to six should consume less than 19g. Kids between seven and ten should stick to no more than 24g.
A high-sugar diet increases the chances of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the NHS. But the greatest concern among dentists is the worrying rise in tooth decay in young children.
Branded as empty calories because of their lack of nutritional benefit, it is no surprise that sugar heavy fizzy drinks were the primary target for Mr. Hammond’s sugar tax. But perhaps the government should also look to extend the tax to chocolate, sweets and other sugar laden treats in the future.
With ever-swelling chocolate eggs dominating our supermarket shelves each year, including the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk 343g offering which racks up 194 grams of added sugar, children in the UK are projected to consume as much as 250 teaspoons of sugar this Easter weekend.