UPDATE 2-Britain's surprise tax on sugary drinks delights health campaigners
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By Michael Holden and Sarah Young
LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - Britain will introduce a sugar levy on soft drinks in two years' time to tackle a growing obesity crisis, finance minister George Osborne said in a surprise announcement on Wednesday, delighting health campaigners and angering drink makers.
Just months after the government ruled out a sugar tax, Osborne said the levy, which would be imposed on companies and based on the sugar content in drinks, would raise about 500 million pounds ($704 million) annually.
"I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this parliament, doing this job and say to my children's generation: I'm sorry, we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks," Osborne told parliament.
"We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing," he said.
Britain joins France, Belgium, Hungary and Mexico which have imposed some form of tax on drinks with added sugar, while Scandinavian countries have levied similar taxes, with varying degrees of success, for many years.
Shares in drinks' groups fell on the news, with Britvic and AG Barr, which makes Irn Bru, down between 3 percent and 5 percent. Sweetener group Tate & Lyle was down 2 percent. Coca-Cola Co fell 1.3 percent in New York.
Britain's Food and Drink Federation said Osborne's tax was "a piece of political theatre" that would make no difference to obesity and cost jobs. Continuación...