Food manufacturers slam Jamie in sugar row

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Jamie Oliver imposed a home-grown sugar tax
Jamie Oliver imposed a home-grown sugar tax

Related tags Food industry Nutrition Food and drink federation

Food and drink manufacturers have hit back at millionaire, celebrity food star Jamie Oliver’s decision to add a 10p ‘sugar tax’ on all sweet drinks at his restaurants in protest at government's refusal to introduce a levy.

Food industry representative the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said a sugar tax would be doomed to failure. While welcoming the star’s commitment to improving public health, FDF director general Ian Wright said an additional tax on food and drinks would not work.

“Where they’ve been introduced, they’ve not proven effective at driving long-term change to diets,”​ said Wright.

“We want Jamie to help us make sure the millions of people eating in restaurants and cafes up and down the country have access to nutritional information,”​ he added.

‘Transforming the food industry’

“It's often hard to tell if you are making a healthy choice or having a treat when you are out with friends and family. Nutritional information on food is transforming the food industry. With his help it could transform the restaurant industry, too.”

Food and drink manufacturers have provided nutrition information on product packaging for nearly a decade, according to the FDF. The labelling was said to give consumers a clear understanding of what they were eating and how it fitted within their diet and encouraged manufacturers to adapt their recipes for health, as consumers increasingly looked for healthier options.

Encouraged manufacturers to adapt

Food taxes 'don't work'

“However, additional taxes on food and drinks don’t work. Where they’ve been introduced, they’ve not proven effective at driving long-term change to diets.”

  • Ian Wright

“Offering a range of portion sizes and reducing calories in foods and drinks are also tried and tested approaches, which can improve overall diets when applied by businesses,” ​said Wright.

But Oliver argued:“I was born into the restaurant industry and I truly believe that by joining together on this issue we not only send a powerful and strong message to government but we also have the potential to make a long-lasting legacy that could ripple across the world.”  

Oliver added:Recently I’ve seen first hand the heart-breaking effects that a poor diet and too much sugar is having on our children’s health and futures. Young children are needing multiple teeth pulled out under general anaesthetic and one in three kids are now leaving primary school overweight or obese. Soft drinks are the biggest single source of sugar amongst school-age kids and teenagers and so we have to start there."

Support for the tax came from Professor Mike Rayner, chair of Sustain and Professor of Population Health at the University of Oxford. The sugar tax initiative was "a hugely important and forward-thinking step"​ by a restaurant group when it comes to a statement affecting public health and food education, said Rayner.

“If other restaurant groups follow this lead, we could be on the verge of making a big impact when it comes to reassessing our relationship with sugar. It should be a treat, not an every day means to hydrate children in particular.”

Taxing facts

  • Many foods and drinks carry standard VAT rate of 20%
  • Belgium and Denmark rejected a tax in 2013
  • Evidence from France shows soft drinks sales fell initially after a tax was introduced in 2012, but they later rose

 Source: FDF

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Why tax all?

Posted by Rachel,

I've been the same weight for around 15 years, I am 45 years old, 52kg and 1.58cm, why should I pay extra for sweet things too, i can manage my weight; don't punish me for others shortcomings!

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Tax on soft drinks worked in Brazil

Posted by Louisa,

Brazil has seen reductions in consumption of soft drinks following the introduction of a tax.

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sugar tax -- YES --

Posted by Anne,

Good for you Jamie, I applaud your decision

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