Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver
Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has made new headlines this month, approaching MPs in the UK to impose a sugar tax. He urged the ministers to be “big and bold” by introducing a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.

Oliver has been campaigning for the levy to be included in the forthcoming child obesity strategy in the UK. He told MPs on the House of Commons’ Health Committee a tax would be the “single most important” change that could be made. He said it would be “deeply symbolic” as well as raising money.

Ministers have indicated that a tax will not be introduced in the UK, but Oliver said he did not believe, from his discussions, that it had been “written off”.

Lauren Bandy, Senior Nutrition Analyst at Euromonitor International comments: “The overall point that Jamie Oliver is trying to make is that something needs to be done to curb the UK’s excessive consumption of sugar in order to control overweight, obesity and diet related disease. The UK Government recommends that people aged 11 years and over consume no more than 30g of added sugars a day, yet data from Euromonitor International shows that the average UK consumer purchases 93g of sugars from packaged food and soft drinks, with 21g coming from soft drinks alone.

“Is the answer to tax soft drinks? The industry says that this isn’t the solution, as it unfairly targets one product when others contribute to sugar consumption too. And they do have a point, given that the average UK consumer purchases 22g of sugar a day from bakery products (including cakes, biscuits and breakfast cereals), 17g from confectionery and 14g from dairy. However, evidence does suggest that raising the price of sugar sweetened beverages does reduce consumption – you can buy 2 litres of own label supermarket cola which contains 150g of sugar for as little as fifty pence. Whether this single action significantly reduces diet related disease is yet to be seen,” she says.

Oliver suggested using teaspoons instead of grams on the label for sugar; arguably this is easier for consumers to understand and would provide consumers with a ‘shock factor’, says Bandy.

“However, is this clearer for consumers than labelling in grams? Would labelling in teaspoons really lead to reduced consumption of soft drinks and sugar? These are questions that first need answering with scientific evidence. While it might be premature for Oliver to suggest this as a solution for excessive sugar consumption, no doubt there are plenty of people – the public, industry players, policy makers and researchers – who are listening,” comments Bandy.

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