He says he has been written off as a “TV chef who has got too big for his boots”, but Jamie Oliver is preparing for a serious fight over his plans for a sugar tax on sweetened drinks.
The chef has stepped up his commitment to campaigning for a levy on every can or bottle of soft drink sold, writing in the Daily Mail that he would be “hugely surprised and disappointed” if Prime Minister David Cameron had rejected proposals for a sugary drinks tax out of hand.
“In my meetings with him on the subject,” he wrote, “I’ve outlined my own experiences of seeing just how devastating too much sugar can be.
“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.”
Last month Oliver presented a documentary about the unhealthy levels of sugar in the food and drink we eat, and focused in particular on the amount of sugar in soft drinks, and the effect it has on children.
“A 500ml bottle of cola has 13 1/2 teaspoons. What?” he said to Radio Times, underlining his “categoric belief in a sugar tax”.
“We need coding, we need snapshots… Half the sugar you consume is hidden in foods. The single largest amount of calories consumed by our children is in sugary soft drinks. They’re a business and they categorically don’t believe in a sugar tax.”
Oliver is lobbying for a 7p levy on every 330ml can of drink containing added sugar. Public Health England on Tuesday backed proposals for a sugar tax, with director of diet and obesity Dr Alison Tedstone telling MPs that the organisation “does see a role for a fiscal approach in reducing sugary drink consumption.”
The son of pub-owning parents, Oliver told drinks manufacturers not to underestimate him: “Rather than trying to write me off as a mouthy buffoon, the big food and drink manufacturers should remember that I know their industry well.” He has already imposed a 10p levy of his own in the UK restaurants he owns on non-alcoholic soft drinks.
Oliver also challenged TV advertising of sugary drinks, saying he was “infuriated by the amount of unhealthy advertising in the commercial breaks” of Britain’s Got Talent.
“If we truly care about prosperity and our little island remaining economically relevant in the world over the next 30 years or so, we need bright and healthy British kids,” he said.
“That’s something that I’m prepared to campaign long and hard for,” he concluded. “I’m ready for a fight.