MP backs Jamie Oliver's sugar campaign

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert met Jamie Oliver in Westminster last week to support his call for action against excessive sugar consumption.

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Mr Herbert was part of a group of MPs who met the celebrity chef to hear more about the chef’s ‘sugar rush’ campaign.  The MP helped Jamie’s previous campaign to promote healthy school dinners.  

One third of UK children now leave primary school overweight or obese, and tooth decay is the most common reason that children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital.

Type-2 diabetes, which can be attributed to excessive sugar intake in poor diets, is costing the NHS around £9 billion a year.

Studies show that soft drinks with added sugar are the largest single source of sugar in the diets of UK school children and teenagers.  Health guidelines advise that adults should not have more than six or seven teaspoons of sugar a day, but some soft drinks contain as much as fourteen teaspoons of sugar. 

Jamie Oliver’s campaign, which he launched with a Channel 4 TV documentary, is for a national strategy to address the nation’s sugar intake.

He has called for a tax on sugar, suggesting that a 7p tax on a can of soft drink with added sugar - pure fruit juices would be exempt - would raise £1 billion a year which could be ring-fenced to pay for a Children’s Health Fund to improve diet.

A sugar tax has already been introduced in other countries, for instance in Mexico where it is claimed that the demand for high sugar drinks has fallen.  However, opponents of a sugar tax or levy question whether overall sugar consumption really reduces, and also argue that such a tax is regressive, with the poor paying disproportionately more.

Last week Public Health England published a review of measures to reduce excessive sugar consumption.  The report suggests consideration of a sugar tax or levy as a means of reducing sugar intake, but says this is likely to be less effective than other measures including the banning of advertising for high fat, sugar and salt foods before the 9pm watershed, and introducing clearer labelling to identify sugar content.

Mr Herbert said: “I’m an admirer of Jamie’s leadership.  His charity restaurants training disadvantaged young people are inspiring, and I enthusiastically helped his school dinners campaign for healthy eating before I was elected in 2005.

“I don’t want to see higher taxes overall, but it’s not a bad principle to tax discretionary items that are bad for us.  We have got to deal with the rising social and economic costs of childhood obesity.  So I think Jamie’s proposals are worth looking at.

“Once again, the time for Jamie’s campaign has come.” 


Notes for Editors

 1.    Photograph – Nick Herbert with Jamie Oliver in Westminster.

 2.    For more information about Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush campaign see

 3.    To read the Public Health England report ‘Sugar reduction: from evidence into action’ see

 4.    A British Medical Journal (BMJ) research paper looked at the link between the ‘Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes’, and can be read here

Michelle TaylorHealth