Jamie Oliver’s tax on soft drinks ‘useless’

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jamie Oliver believes the government will do a U-turn on implementing a sugar tax
Jamie Oliver believes the government will do a U-turn on implementing a sugar tax

Related tags: Soft drinks, Soft drink, United kingdom

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s call to put sugary soft drinks “on the naughty step” with a 20% tax has been slammed by industry as ’pointless’.

In his new Channel 4 documentary Sugar Rush​, which will be aired on September 3, Oliver attacks sugary soft drinks and the added sugar in consumers’ diets, which he blames for the UK’s rise in bad teeth and type 2 diabetes.

According to the chef, Mexico’s recently implemented tax on sugary soft drinks was transforming the health of the country’s population and urged the UK government to do a U-turn on implementing a sugar tax here.

Oliver also blamed sugar-saturated food and drink for a rise in overweight and obese people in the UK (now standing at 64% of adults), which is also claimed to cost the National Health Service (NHS) £47bn a year.

‘I’m going to get a bashing’

For a sugar tax

  • 64% of UK adults overweight or obese
  • Obesity costs the NHS £47bn a year
  • Poor dental hygiene is on the rise
  • Type 2 diabetes is on the rise

He told journalists at a screening of his documentary: “I know I’m going to get a bashing ​[but] I feel totally righteous.

“I’m doing it as a father and because every clever person that I have met realises we’re all aligned in the same catastrophe.”

The celebrity chef’s rebooted attack on unhealthy food and drink follows his School Dinners ​television series aired in 2010, when Oliver transformed the diets of children at Charlton Manor primary school in London.

Despite Oliver’s good intentions, British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington claimed the chef’s evidence didn’t support his case.

“Jamie Oliver deserves credit for his efforts to encourage healthy, balanced diets, particularly in schools, but on this issue the evidence does not support his case,” ​Partington said.

‘A mere four calories per day’

“The soft drinks tax in Mexico has reduced average calorie intake by six calories per day and a model promoted by campaigners in the UK suggests a 20% soft drinks tax would reduce it by a mere four calories per day.

BSDA is against a tax

“The soft drinks tax in Mexico has reduced average calorie intake by six calories per day and a model promoted by campaigners in the UK suggests a 20% soft drinks tax would reduce it by a mere four calories per day.”

  • Partington, BSDA

“By contrast, the efforts by soft drink companies, including product reformulation, smaller pack sizes and increased promotion of low- and no-calorie drinks have led to a 7% reduction in calories from soft drinks in the past three years.”

Plans to implement a soft drinks tax were abandoned by Belgium in 2013 after its health minister claimed there was no evidence to prove it would be effective.

The plans were scrapped in the same year Denmark ditched its fat and sugar tax, because of their “economic impact”.

France experienced a small amount of success with its soft drinks tax in 2012, which caused soft drinks sales volumes to decline by 2%.

However, the achievement was short-lived and by 2013 volumes had grown by 0.5% and by the end of 2014 sales were up by 1%.

'Strongly share Jamie Oliver's commitment

“We strongly share Jamie Oliver's commitment to improving public health and agree that change is needed.
“While we haven’t been privy to early screenings, reports suggest that the documentary over-simplifies the obesity challenge. The causes of obesity are far more wide-ranging than any single ingredient, food or drink. A narrow focus on single ingredients detracts from the clear and consistent information on nutrition, diets and healthy lifestyles that consumers want and need.
“Leading health experts and UK Government support a comprehensive approach to tackling poor health, including balanced diets and physical exercise.
“Additional taxes on foods or drinks, on top of the already enforced 20% VAT on most foods, would be regressive, ineffective and unworkable.”

  • Ian Wright, FDF director general

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