‘A tax for good’?: Jamie Oliver films video imploring New Zealand Health Minister to pass sugar tax

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Celebrity UK chef Jamie Oliver has filmed a video directed at New Zealand Health Minister David Clark, imploring him to ‘listen to the people’ and get a sugar tax passed in the country. ©The Spinoff video screenshot
Celebrity UK chef Jamie Oliver has filmed a video directed at New Zealand Health Minister David Clark, imploring him to ‘listen to the people’ and get a sugar tax passed in the country. ©The Spinoff video screenshot

Related tags: New zealand, Sugar, sugar tax

Celebrity UK chef Jamie Oliver has filmed a video directed at New Zealand Health Minister David Clark, imploring him to ‘listen to the people’ and get a sugar tax passed in the country.

The video was broadcasted at a sugar tax symposium that Clark was scheduled to open. However, Clark was not present on the day, sending his deputy Maree Roberts instead.

Nonetheless, Oliver made several heartfelt pleas in the video, calling the sugar tax ‘a thing of beauty’​.

“This tax is a tax for good. [It] is a thing of beauty. When it was ratified in the British government, [it led to] one in three sugary drink products being reformulated, meaning that reformulation took place at a velocity and rate that had never been seen before in British history,”​ said Oliver.

He also listed out various positive effects of the successful implementation of sugar tax in the United Kingdom, where he previously led a campaign to get the tax passed.

“We’ve also see advertising of the non-sugary products go up, as well as the sales of more water and dairy products go up. We’ve also seen some of the bigger companies start procuring companies like coffee companies.

“Most importantly, we’ve seen an industry change […] and a government do the right thing going above commerce, money (sic).”

He also emphasised the role of government in protecting the nation’s children from chronic diseases.

“It’s so important when government listens. [We] want in the modern age politicians and governments that are up for positive change, especially when it protects child health,” ​he added.

Oliver stressed multiple times that ‘the data is there’​ to support the implementation of a sugar tax.

“If [the sugary drinks companies] can afford to sponsor big events like the Olympics and so on, it means that they are profiteering from something that is hurting. The data is there.

“New Zealand productivity is [also] being affected by bad diets and sugary-sweetened drinks. You’ve got to tax this. You’ve got to push this through, David.

“It’s not just about your party, it’s now about you, it’s personal. You are the man at this moment in time.”

New Zealand and sugar tax

That said, it does not appear that sugar tax in New Zealand will come to fruition just yet.

In a report on sugar taxes by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), as commissioned by the Ministry of Health, it was concluded that ‘the evidence that sugar taxes improve health is weak’.

“No study based on actual experience with sugar taxes has identified an impact on health outcomes,”​ said the report, located on the Sugar Research Advisory Service website.

“Studies that report health improvements are modelling studies that have assumed a meaningful change in sugar intake with no compensatory substitution, rather than being based on observations of real behaviour.”

However, this has not stopped sugar tax supporters from continuing to lobby for it. Earlier this year, Ministry of Health Chief Science Advisor Dr John Potter told Prime Minister Jacinda Arden that: ‘Increases in the prices of SSBs can result in a reduction of their consumption’.

Professor Barry Popkin from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill added to RadioLive ​that: “Australia and New Zealand are very high consumers of sugary beverages so a tax is needed to help reduce that.”

According to research, New Zealanders consume on average 37 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is some six times above World Health Organisation recommendations.

Jamie Oliver’s avid support of sugary drinks taxation

Oliver was an avid lobbyist and campaigner for sugar tax to be passed in Britain, and has been enthusiastically showing support for the same to take place in other countries since.

“Everyone thought we couldn’t do it [but we did],” ​he said.

In 2016, he posted a Facebook video urging the governments of various other countries including Australia, Germany and Canada to ‘get on’​ sugar tax implementation.

"It's about time your governments got on this,"​ he said.

"Australia, pull your finger out."

Earlier this year, he also said he was looking at campaigning for the British government to expand the sugar tax as well as implement taxes on junk food.

This would be part of an 11-point manifesto for him, which also includes restrictions on unhealthy food advertisements, banning energy drinks for those below 16, setting compulsory targets for sugar and calorie reduction, and more.

He also took the New Zealand government to task last year for missing the sugar tax symposium that year, calling it absence ‘a bloody disgrace’.

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