While media headlines have concentrated on the idea of a sugar tax, it’s Jamie Oliver’s proposed sugar labels that should really command our attention.
The most powerful part of Oliver’s presentation to the Health Committee last week was when he passed around bottles of soft drinks with his own clear labels attached showing how many teaspoons full of sugar were in each bottle. A 500ml bottle of Ribena? 13 teaspoons. Pepsi? 14 teaspoons.
You can see Oliver’s excellent stickers on this Instagram post.
Oliver’s argument to the committee was simple – if you present people with clear, honest information, then they tend to make good choices, or at least better choices. If parents could quickly and easily see how much sugar was in soft drinks, they’d probably change how many they bought for their kids.
As Oliver said to the Committee:
If that was on every pack in the country, you wouldn’t need a tax!
The British public understand teaspoons. They’re a tangible measurement. As Oliver argued:
If you want something that gives you good, clear information in half a second that is the only way to do it on sugary sweetened drinks.
When I talk to the general public at large I have not yet met anyone who does not want that information now.
Oliver acknowledged that the industry hates the idea, which in itself ‘paints the clearest picture that clarity is something that they don’t wish us to have.’
Information is essential for markets to work properly. The power of consumer choice only works when informed.
Talking to my own friends and family, I haven’t spoken to anyone who isn’t shocked by the sugar content of the Ribena bottle. Nobody has guessed it correctly.
We deserve decent information. Let’s implement Oliver’s labels. Much change would flow from that.