Jamie Oliver: Sugar and salt taxes could 'allow vulnerable to realise potential'

15 July 2021, 15:46 | Updated: 15 July 2021, 15:55

By Tim Dodd

Chef and healthy food campaigner Jamie Oliver tells LBC proposed sugar and salt taxes will allow the 'most vulnerable to truly realise their full potential.'

The conversation comes as a a tax on sugar and salt and vegetable prescriptions by the NHS is suggested by an independent report as a way to tackle obesity

The medical community has backed the words of warning in the National Food Strategy's review which state what we eat, and how it is produced, is doing "terrible damage" to the environment and health, contributing to 64,000 deaths a year in England and driving wildlife loss and climate change.

Mr Oliver supported the ideas in the report, telling LBC: "One thing is for sure, we can't do what we've done for the last 20 years, and the government absolutely need to set some precedence. 

"There's that fine line between Nanny state and having a good nanny, because no one wants to have an abusive nanny, right? 

"We don't want to take choice away from the British public, I don't believe in that at all, but definitely big companies globally need to reformulate."

READ MORE: Boris Johnson kills off sugar tax hours after report No10 commissioned recommends it

James responded: "That's the key word is it? This idea that you can actually change the recipes to make similar food but much healthier?"

Mr Oliver agreed "100%": "When we've set reformulation targets voluntarily, it really hasn't worked. When we look at the sugary drinks tax, it didn't impact the cost, everyone said it was a bad idea, I drove that one myself... it's taken millions and millions of tonnes of sugar out of the system, empty calories, and actually the industry is richer for it.

"You're always going to have big business saying 'it's more money on your bowl of cereal', but in actual fact the only reason those companies can state any health claims is fortification, which is nothing to do with the food, it's stuff added in."

Read more: Brits to bask in 30C temperatures as heatwave returns

Mr Oliver continued: "The concept of choice is only if you've got one.

"The idea that any child can succeed in this country is a theoretical truth. But if you live in a poor area, which has massively more junk food advertising, which has massively earlier mortality, less educational attainment.

"Every British person does better if our most vulnerable cost less and more happy and productive.

"So for me personally, this is not just about food. It's about truth, and fairness, and allowing our most vulnerable to truly realise their full potential."

The independent report, commissioned by the Government in 2019, calls for a sugar and salt reformulation tax to cut their use in products and curb obesity, strokes and heart disease.

Money raised by the tax could be spent on addressing the inequalities around food, such as expanding free school meals to another 1.1 million children who need them, funding holiday activity and food clubs, and providing healthy food to low income families.