Essayah: Products sweetened with xylitol should be exempted from the proposed tax on sweets

Sari Essayah MEP has called on the Finnish government to do its utmost so that products sweetened with xylitol will be exemped from the proposed tax on sweets. Ms Essayah spoke at the recent Board meeting of Finland’s Christian Democrats held in Brussels on Saturday 7 November.

In 1999, Finland abolished the tax on sweets and soft drinks, partly because the Commission held that exempting from the tax products sweetened with xylitol, which is primarily produced in Finland, discriminated against products produced in other member States sweetened with other sweetening agents.

Essayah asked the Commission in September, what measures the Commission proposed to take to ensure that sweets sweetened with sweeteners which are scientifically  recognised to have positive health effects can be exempted from takes on sweets in the Member States, and that natural mineral waters and carbonated spring waters can be exempted from taxes on soft drinks.

In its response, the Commission stated that, on the basis of the subsidiarity principle, Member States are free to apply national taxes, insofar as they cannot be characterised as turnover taxes and do not constitute direct or indirect protection of national products.

”Last year EFSA upheld the health claim that products sweetened with xylitol have positive health effects. Moreover, a month ago the EFSA held that all polyols have positive health effects. Polyols used as sweeteners include isomalt, xylitol, maltitol, mannitol and sorbitol. Bacteria which cause tooth decay do not feed on polyols and as such they are not harmful for dental health. 

”Now it seems that it will be possible in Finland to exempt all sweets sweetened with polyols including xylitol from the forthcoming tax on sweets. Furthermore, sugar free mineral waters and carbonated spring waters can be exempted from the tax on soft drinks. This would comply with the principle of taxing products which are harmful to health more and those which are beneficial to health less”, says Ms Essayah.