Jamie Oliver wants NZ to adopt sugar tax

British chef Jamie Oliver has called for NZ to introduce a sugar tax
British chef Jamie Oliver has called for NZ to introduce a sugar tax

Jamie Oliver has challenged New Zealand to introduce a sugar tax in his crusade to tackle obesity.

The celebrity chef has posted a video on his Facebook page following the introduction of a 25p (53c) per litre tax on sugary soft drinks by UK Chancellor George Osborne overnight.

The tax, which will come in from 2018, could add 8p (17c) to the price of cans of fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola, 7Up and Irn Bru, energy drinks like Red Bull and carton juice drinks like Ribena from 2018.

READ MORE:
Health minister says no plans for a sugar tax

"This is about the single largest source of sugar in our kids diet in the UK, being sugary and sweet drinks," he said while filming himself near Big Ben in London.

"This is bold and brave and this will send ripples around the world, as far as how these weak pathetic governments combat the rise of childhood obesity."

He added: "Many countries like New Zealand are on the brink of taking action on obesity in the form of a sugary drink tax. Let's see if they can now follow Britain's lead."

The food revolution is underway

The food revolution is underway. This feels like a victory for Britain's children and for everyone who has campaigned so hard for a tax on sugary sweetened drinks. I would love the money to go to food education as well as sport but I think we have to applaud the Chancellor for taking this extremely important, bold step. I hope that this bravery will continue to form a part of this Government's attitude to dealing with obesity and will influence the Prime Minister's Childhood Obesity strategy later in the year.

Posted by Jamie Oliver on Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said there were no plans for a similar measure here.
The Government had more than 20 initiatives to combat obesity, but a sugar tax would not be added at this stage, he said.

"There is no one silver bullet that is going to solve this. I know that the UK have gone ahead [with a sugar tax], but the best advice I've had is that the evidence at this point is not definitive.

"We've said we'd watch the evidence. In late 2017 there will be a couple of major studies reported on that look comprehensively at the international evidence, one from North Carolina, one from Waikato University, so we will keep a watching brief on it, but we are not actively planning to introduce one."

The Green Party and health experts say it's time to follow the UK's lead.

"All the evidence shows that sugar is damaging the health of New Zealand children and is driving our obesity epidemic," Greens health spokesperson Kevin Hague said.

"It's time for the Minister of Health to put children first and take this simple step to protect them."

Dr Simon Thornley, epidemiologist at Auckland Regional Public Health Service, said New Zealand should now follow suit.

"In my view, sugar needs to be treated like tobacco with progressive tax increases. The situation in New Zealand is very similar to the UK with high levels of childhood and adult obesity.

"As well as limiting weight gain, this tax is likely to lead to major savings on children's dental health."

Professor Tony Blakely, Department of Public Health, University of Otago said Britain's sugar tax was an important moment in public health policy.

"It recognises that we have transitioned to a world where obesity is a major public health threat, and that society needs to take collective action to alter our direction of travel.

Professor Blakely said the tax was "resetting the food landscapes" to be healthier.

Labour's acting health spokesman David Clark said the party wanted to see evidence that a sugar tax worked.

"We are not ruling out such a tax in future but any decision would be evidence-based. Recent research looks promising. We will be announcing further policy in this area later in the year."

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King has previously said the party would not tax soft drinks as that would not address the problem of sugar levels in processed foods.
Instead, Labour would give manufacturers a chance to significantly lower sugar content, making clear that regulation would be used if that did not happen in stated timeframes.

In the UK, campaigners including Oliver and the NHS celebrated the Budget decision, which will raise an estimated £520 million ($1.1 billion) a year for the Treasury.

Shares in listed drinks firms dropped sharply on the London market after the sugar tax announcement.

Irn Bru maker AG Barr, which also makes Tizer and St Clement's, fell 4 per cent, while Robinsons squash firm Britvic fell 2 per cent and Vimto maker Nichols plunged as much as 7 per cent.

Osborne warned of "a dangerous cocktail of risks" as he delivered a spending plan in which Britain acts "now so we don't pay later."

He offered £3.5 billion ($7.5 billion) in cuts by 2020 to achieve his target of balancing the books in the face of weaker global economic growth and repeatedly insisted he was focused on the future.

"In this budget we choose the long term," he said. "We choose to put the next generation first."

But he was forced to acknowledge that debt would rise as a proportion of gross domestic product, missing his own target. And growth forecasts were cut in the face of a slowdown in the broader global economy.

As a result, Osborne argued it was a moment for caution over state finances.

"Britain is not immune to slowdowns and shocks," he said. "Nor as a nation are we powerless. We have a choice. We can choose to add to the risk and uncertainty, or we can be a force for stability."

Mindful of the dramatic recent drop in oil prices, Osborne also offered tax relief to companies operating in the North Sea. But even as he offered relief to many in Scotland whose jobs depend on offshore oil operations, he chided Scottish National Party lawmakers, who had argued that oil revenues would underpin the economy during their campaign last year for independence.

"We are only able to provide this kind of support to our oil and gas industry because of the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom," he said.

Tax relief was also offered for the wealthy and for small businesses. The disabled will face cuts. He pledged to crack down on tax-dodging.

- NZ Herald

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