The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it was “inconsistent” that Oliver had chosen to tax sugary drinks in his restaurants when he didn’t provide nutritional labelling on in-store menus or support the UK government’s drive to reduce calories.
FDF’s director general Ian Wright said: “Additional burdensome taxes on foods or drinks, on top of the already enforced 20% VAT [value-added tax] on most foods, would be regressive, ineffective and unworkable.”
Such taxes would be rejected by the public, he added.
“This complex challenge needs a complex solution, one which involves and empowers people, not taxes them,” he said.
‘Over-simplifies the challenge’
“Leading health experts and UK government support a comprehensive approach to tackling poor health, including balanced diets and physical exercise. Reports suggest that the [Sugar Rush] documentary [which aired on Channel 4 last night] over-simplifies the obesity challenge which is far more wide-ranging than any single ingredient, food or drink.”
Oliver – along with healthy food lobbying organisation Sustain and restaurant chain Leon – has launched a petition calling on the UK government to introduce a sugary drinks tax.
If more than 100,000 people sign the petition, the government must consider debating the issue in parliament. The petition has currently received almost half the signatures it needs (49,217).
Children health facts
- Type-2 diabetes costs the NHS £9bn a year
- Tooth decay is the main reason five to nine-year-olds are admitted to hospital
- One third of children leave primary school overweight or obese
- 26,000 children have to have teeth extractions under anaesthetic a year
Source: Children’s Health Fund
Following the launch of his Sugar Rush programme, Oliver and Sustain have also set up a Children’s Health Fund. The aim of the fund is to get restaurants and cafes to volunteer to put a 10p levy on their soft drinks with added sugar.
See a clip of Oliver discussing his documentary at the bottom of this article.
Tax of 20p per litre
Doctors, dentists, dietitians and many other public health experts support a tax of 7p per regular-sized can (20p per litre) of soft drink with added sugar, Oliver claimed.
“I’ve spoken to some of the brightest people in the medical world over the last few years and they all agree that action is urgently needed if we don’t want the NHS [National Health Service] to crumble completely because of the costs of diet-related disease like type-2 diabetes,” Oliver said.
“One doctor recently told me that diet-related disease is one of the defining crises of our time. We need the government to step up.”
If the tax is forced on businesses, it could generate £1bn per year which Oliver and Sustain believe should be ring-fenced to support “much needed preventative work” around childhood obesity and diet-related disease, and improving the environment they grow up in.
The funds raised from the levy in participating restaurants would go to children’s health and food education initiatives.
Leon co-founder and ceo John Vincent said he hoped his restaurant was the first of many to join Oliver in adding a 10p levy to sugary drinks.
The petition can be found here.