Sugar tax row: ‘Jamie can dish it out, but can’t take it’

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

FDF boss Ian Wright compared Jamie Oliver's tactics to Phil Mitchell's approach
FDF boss Ian Wright compared Jamie Oliver's tactics to Phil Mitchell's approach

Related tags: sugar tax, Jamie oliver, Nutrition

Food and Drink Federation boss Ian Wright has hit back at Jamie Oliver, comparing his tactics to those of EastEnders hardman Phil Mitchell, as the sugar row turns sour.

Oliver, the figurehead of the sugar tax campaign, objected to the comparison describing the Mitchell brothers as shaven-headed hard nuts”​ known for their bullying ways. 

“What kind of comment is that to make when we’re supposed to be having a serious debate about an issue that affects the nation’s health, and particularly that of our children?”​ Oliver wrote in the Daily Mail. 

“Maybe what Mr Wright really means when he compares me to the Mitchell brothers is that I’m not afraid to say what I think.” 

FDF boss hits back

“Having made a series of outrageous allegations about the UK’s food and drinks industry he bridles at having his tactics compared to those of Phil Mitchell.” 

  • Ian Wright, director general at the Food and Drink Federation

‘Bond villain’ characterisation 

But Wright hit back at the celebrity chef and said the food and drink industry was fed up with being characterised as the ‘Bond villain’ of the debate. 

“It seems that Jamie Oliver can dish it out, but he can’t take it,”​ Wright told FoodManufacture.co.uk. 

“Having made a series of outrageous allegations about the UK’s food and drinks industry he bridles at having his tactics compared to those of Phil Mitchell.” 

Wright said the industry was angered by attempts to “railroad”​ ministers into imposing a sugar tax, which he argued would not tackle childhood obesity but would hit the poorest hardest and cost jobs.  

“UK food and drink, which employs 400,000 people and contributes £22bn a year to the economy, is sick and tired of being characterised as some kind of ‘Bond villain’,”​ he said.  

Ian Wright

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright

Progress ‘led by industry’​ 

“In truth most of the diet and nutritional progress we’ve made in recent years has been voluntarily led by the industry itself.”​ 

Wright criticised the lack of acknowledgment for the industry’s move towards smaller portions, labels on the front of packs, salt and sugar reduction and product reformulation. 

“As I keep saying, Jamie Oliver can be a force for good in tackling childhood obesity​,” he said.  

“But the answer to that problem lies in evidence-based interventions across governments, schools, parents and of course the industry; not in demonising one nutrient in one set of products by way of a stunt.” 

The prime minister’s spokesman confirmed that David Cameron did not “see a need for a tax on sugar”​ but had not read a controversial report from Public Health England, according to the BBC.

The report calling for a sugar tax – possibly at a rate of up to 20% – has been released at last following outcry​ over a government decision to delay its publication.

Earlier this week Oliver, who has levied a 10p sugar tax in his own restaurants, told an inquiry on childhood obesity that a sugar tax would be “deeply symbolic”​. 

Sugar row turns sour: who said what?

Wright on Oliver:

  • “It seems that Jamie Oliver can dish it out, but he can’t take it.”
  • “UK food and drink, which employs 400,000 people and contributes £22bn a year to the economy, is sick and tired of being characterised as some kind of ‘Bond villain’.” 

Oliver on Wright:

  • “Rather than name-calling, I prefer to deal in facts.”
  • “The food and drinks lobby might try to present me as a TV chef who has got too big for his boots. But I’m basing my arguments on the evidence of numerous doctors and scientists.”

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4 comments

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TV Chef - The problem is in the name

Posted by John Foster,

Id be quiet if I made my living from parading food in front of people to make them hungry as they sit down for hours on end doing nothing but gawp at a screen.

Let's put in a big GLUG of olive oil, a huge nob of butter and "season it well" [aka pile on the salt].

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Reduce food price

Posted by Gareth,

Instead of taxing sugar, why don't the government and the likes of Jamie Oliver look to bring the cost of meat and organic vegetables down in price and educate families on good nutrition, eating a balanced diet and cooking practices.

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Sugar free yes please

Posted by Sdc,

And let's go any sweetener free as well. I back Jamie Oliver in this. Poor big food companies being harassed by little Jamie Oliver they have resorted to name calling. Will some food company do a sugar free sweetener free additive free food range. Also save our raw milk. Natural healthy products are best. Everybody just make your own food from scratch and stop using the chemicals in processed food. See face book about Barton Farm Closed again by government agencies.

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