Channel 4 at 9pm last night was the place to be for Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush. No stranger to these pages, this time Jamie is tackling the issue of our nation’s excessive sugar consumption.
You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have read or seen something in the media lately about how we’re all eating way too much sugar than is good for us. True to form, Jamie got down to the nitty gritty and explained it in easy to understand language.
The two biggest problems related to our sugar consumption are obesity-related Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Watching a young boy have six rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic was uncomfortable viewing but he’s just one of over 45 thousand cases of children going to hospital for this procedure every year in the UK. In addition, some 170 limbs are amputated every year as a result of problems arising from Type 2 diabetes.
So what’s the solution? Jamie headed to Mexico where fizzy drinks like Coke and Pepsi are so ingrained in the culture that they’re even given to babies who are still breastfeeding. The country has a major problem on its hands: two-thirds of its population is obese and its desperate health care system is struggling with a rising incidence of blindness, limb amputation and death, all a result of eating and drinking too much sugar.
Faced with this, Mexico introduced a 1 peso a litre tax on drinks with added sugar in January last year. As a result, consumption of these drinks has fallen by 6% and the tax has raised over US$1 billion in one year alone, money which has been poured back into the health system.
A similar tax has been called for here in the UK by the British Medical Association, dentists and other health professionals. A 20p per litre tax on sugar-added drinks would potentially reduce consumption by 15%, obesity by 200,000 people and raise up to £1 billion a year for the NHS and food education in schools.
With no action so far from the government, Jamie is getting the ball rolling by introducing a tax in his own restaurants – 10p for every non-alcoholic drink that contains added sugar – and calling on his restaurant friends to do the same. The money raised will fund food education in schools under a new Children’s Health Trust.
In the meantime, there’s a petition to sign calling for the government to debate the introduction of a sugary drinks tax in Parliament. So if you want to do something to curb our dependence on sugar and support the NHS, here’s where you sign.