The TV chef and food campaigner, responsible for last decade’s overhaul of school dinners, has demanded the government do more reduce our rapidly increasing sugar consumption with the roll out of a sugar tax.
The proposal primarily targets the high sugar content in soft drinks and looks to impose a 20p levy per litre on every soft drink containing added sugar – equating to a huge 7p per 330ml can (an average mark up of 10%). While similar schemes in France and Mexico suggest such a tax has reduced sales of sugary drinks, critics have described the idea as irresponsible at best, and downright ludicrous at worst. It has been said that such a price hike will only leave working-class families worse off and will, moreover, be the death of SMEs in the food industry who rely on the competitive prices they achieve at wholesale.
Tim Martin, Wetherspoons Chair, commented, “Jamie Oliver runs restaurants which cater to an affluent clientele. He is either courting the favour of the elite or is badly out of touch with the majority of people. Showboating of this kind will close pubs.”
And with VAT remaining at an inflated rate of 20%, customers will be similarly up in arms as they’re faced with yet another cost to factor in to their weekly shopping bill.
Amongst his demands, Oliver has also called for the government to make compliance with The Responsibility Deal mandatory for food manufacturers, rather than voluntary as it stands at present. Introduced by the coalition government in 2010, partnership with scheme marks companies’ conscious attempt to reduce sugar in their products with a view to tackling the nation’s increasingly poor dietary habits. While some have actively sought to review the content in their products, the deal has had significantly less takers than hoped and sales of sugary products continue to rise.
Of his outlined plans, an overhaul of food labelling and advertising is, by far, least contested, and it seems all are agreement that more responsible marketing is called for with respect to the food and drinks market where, often, labelling is misleading with respect to sugar content.
Backed by the findings of Public Health England’s recent report, which suggested a taxation on sugar could be a successful means of tackling the obesity crisis, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt may be forced to rethink his position after vetoing Oliver’s bid last year. As governmental talks recommence, albeit with much consternation from PM David Cameron, the question remains: will consumers and smaller businesses really foot the bill for lax laws on manufacturing and advertising?