Jamie Oliver 'hoping to be a pain to Government' over sugary drink tax


Jamie Oliver has vowed to be "a pain in the arse" to the Government over his plans to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.

The celebrity chef and campaigner said he is confident of introducing a new 20p per litre levy on every soft drink sold in the UK containing added sugar, despite the move being potentially unpopular with the food and drinks industry.

Oliver has also set out plans to ban all junk food advertising on television before the 9pm watershed, and to introduce clearer labels on sugar content in an effort to combat soaring levels of diabetes across the country.

The father of four spent a year investigating the health risks associated with a high-sugar diet for Jamie's Sugar Rush, which airs on Channel 4 next week. It follows his successful Jamie's School Dinners series a decade ago which helped introduce tough new laws on the quality of pupils' meals.

He said: "I have picked a really hard one. It could be a complete waste of my time and I'll get an arse-kicking. But is it worth getting a kicking over? Yes.

"This is not a spectator sport. I'm hoping to be a pain in the arse to the Government.

"Amazing things could happen if this goes well."

Oliver said he has had "positive" conversations with David Cameron and his advisers about introducing the tax, which would be ring-fenced to provide up to £1 bn a year to support preventative strategies regarding obesity and diet-related diseases.

The television presenter said he even gave the Prime Minister a framed graph detailing the country's obesity levels in order to demonstrate the extent of the UK's health problems.

Last month it was revealed the number of amputations carried out due to diabetes reached an all-time high of 135 a week, while treating diabetes also represents 10% of the NHS budget.

The hour-long documentary features hard-to-watch footage of a six-year-old boy having six decayed teeth removed. 

Oliver said he is hoping to appeal to the Prime Minister as a father to help introduce new measures designed to reduce sugar consumption.

He said: "The reaction I have received (from government) is positive.

"This could be a legacy piece."

He added: "Us parents and adults have completely let (the younger) generation down over the last 30 years.

"What we have done is brainwash and make it too easy to make mistakes too often. We need to make doing the right thing (eating and drinking healthy products) cool."

Asked if he was concerned about negative reactions to the tax proposal, he said: "I know I'm going to get a bashing from some. I can't be exposed to the things I do because of my job and not do something about it. 

"If School Dinners was Star Wars, this is The Emperor Strikes Back."

Oliver said he will introduce the sugary drinks tax in his own restaurants by the autumn, while the Leon food chain has also announced a similar levy on colas and two other drinks from September 17.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the idea. She said: "GPs are not killjoys, but there is absolutely no place in our diets - particularly children's - for sugary drinks.

"The college would like to see the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks to make them less affordable - an approach that has worked before with smoking where there was a notable fall in the number of smokers once prices were increased."

:: Jamie's Sugar Rush will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 9pm on September 3