The campaigning television chef says sugar is “the next tobacco” and it should be taxed because of its health risks
Sugary foods risk causing a public health crisis similar to smoking and should be taxed in the same way as tobacco, Jamie Oliver has said.
The television chef said sugar was “definitely the next evil” and should be targeted because of the burden it was placing on the NHS.
He said he agreed with France’s decision to impose a tax on sugary drinks and believes Britain should follow.
The 39-year-old campaigner also disclosed that he had found himself on the verge of burning out from exhaustion last year, while balancing his empire of restaurants and television career.
His comments on the risks of sugar following warnings from health campaign groups that sugary diets are one of the main factors in increasing levels of obesity and type-2 diabetes.
By some estimates, the average Briton consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar each week – often without knowing it because processed foods are so sweetened.
A third of British children and two-thirds of British adults are classed as obese or overweight, while the number with diabetes has doubled in the past two decades.
The two conditions are already estimated to cost Britain more than £5bn each year and that could rise tenfold by 2050.
Mr Oliver told the Daily Mail: “Sugar’s definitely the next evil. It’s the next tobacco, without doubt, and that industry should be scared. And it should be taxed, just like tobacco and anything else that can, frankly, destroy lives.”
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, last year ruled out taxing sugar, though admitted more needed to be done to tackle childhood obesity.
Mr Oliver said: “I’m not passionate about taxing, but when you look at the pot of cash that isn’t getting any bigger, and if you think that 68 per cent of every case that goes through the NHS is diet-related, then yes, you need radical change.’
The chef also revealed how he had been forced to overhaul his lifestyle because overwork had left him exhausted and struggling to survive on three-and-a-half hours sleep each night.
He said: “It’s not as if I felt bad at the time. Or I didn’t think I felt bad, but with hindsight I didn’t look great. I didn’t feel … alive. I was functioning, don’t get me wrong, but looking back there was this feeling that I had to rev up to do it. I was exhausted all the time – and no wonder.’
He said: “When I wasn’t at work I could fall asleep at a minute’s notice – not that I got the chance with the kids. At the weekend they want to play.”
Mr Oliver, who runs a string of restaurants across the country, also criticised EU regulations limiting working hours for employees.
He said: “What’s a 48-hour week in a kitchen? I mean, really, that’s called a holiday. The average was 80 hours when I started and to people running their own places, that’s probably still standard.”