Lobbying against sugar taxation in the European Union: Analysing the lobbying arguments and tactics of stakeholders in the food and drink industries

Arsenios Tselengidis, P O Ostergren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: This study investigates the lobbying actors of the food and drink industry (FDI), their web lobbying arguments used in the sugar taxation debate and the tactics deployed when facing legislative restrictions on their products to curb the burden of non-communicable diseases in Europe. Methods: A stakeholder analysis was performed to identify the FDI’s actors lobbying against sugar taxation within the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health during December 2015. Qualitative content analysis was applied to assess the FDI’s web lobbying claims related to three main concepts (sugar as a product, sugar’s association with non-communicable diseases and sugar taxation), guided by a framework for corporate political activity. Results: The web site content of a front organization and six FDI lobbyists was analysed. Some new strategies emerged alongside known corporate strategies (‘questioning the effectiveness of regulation and promoting benefits of a withdrawal’, ‘promoting sugar’s good traits and shift the blame away from it’ and ‘establishing relationships with trade unions’). The lobby tactics were similar to those previously applied by the tobacco industry in Europe, although the argument that sugar is a natural ingredient in many foods was unique to the FDI. Conclusions: The observed tactics and arguments presented by the FDI in opposition to sugar taxation have striking similarities with those previously used by the tobacco industry. An improved understanding of the stakeholders’ mandate and resources and their most important tactics will strengthen the position of public health experts when debating sugar taxation with the FDI, which may contribute to improving population health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018

Cite this