Last week, Jamie Oliver's 'Sugar Rush' TV show caused a stir within the media and has divided opinion among the great British public. Diane Armitage, NFU sugar adviser gives her perspective:
It was difficult to avoid the hype last week surrounding Jamie Oliver’s latest documentary Jamie’s Sugar Rush, indeed both the Financial Times and the Independent gave it coverage in print and online last week.
But entertaining TV does not always reveal the full picture.
Jamie's programme focussed on the contribution of sugar to weight gain and type-2 diabetes. The celebrity chef came armed with a manifesto asking for sugar content, measuredin teaspoons to be put on the labels of sugary drinks. His petition to introduce a 20p per litre tax on sugary drinks has already hit the 100,000 signatures needed to ensure the petition is debated in parliament.
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There is no suggestion that sugar should not continue to make an important contribution to a healthy balanced diet. UK beet growers will continue to play an important part in delivering a reliable, sustainable, traceable and secure supply of home grown sugar to consumers. We know that more than eight out of ten shoppers want to see more British food on supermarket shelves. We need to trust them when they decide how their sugar intake fits into their lifestyle choices.
Jamie is not alone in calling for change. Earlier this summer, the British Medical Association called for a 20% tax on sugary drinks while the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition published a report saying that free sugars should be reduced to no more than 5% of daily dietary energy intake (the WHO recommendation is 10%).
The author of that report concluded that the rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace
However, the independent Institute of Economic Affairs report “The Fat Lie” stated that the average body weight of English adults has increased by 2kg since 2002. During this time, calorie consumption has declined by 4.1% and sugar consumption has declined by 7.4%.
The author of that report concluded that the rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption. Similar conclusions have been reached in research done in Australia,
Sugar continues to be put under the microscope by the press. but that is the case for nearly every farm sector as consumers become more savvy about the food they eat. We know we can continue to produce the high quality sugar our customers expect.