Brexit could make children healthier: Jamie Oliver says leaving the EU will allow clearer labelling on unhealthy food as he calls for a milkshake tax to tackle the obesity epidemic

  • Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall singled out Mars and Yazoo drinks
  • Celebrity chefs said it is 'May Day' for the obesity crisis and PM must take action
  • They told health select committee children bombarded with junk food adverts 
  • Government is due to unveil new childhood obesity strategy later this year 

Jamie Oliver today said Brexit could help tackle childhood obesity epidemic by allowing ministers to impose tougher laws on junk food.

He said Brexit would allow the Government to break with Brussels and impose clearer levels to hep tackle the health crisis.

He teamed up with fellow celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to calls for the sugar tax to be extended to milkshakes. 

Fearnley-Whittingstall warned the Prime Minister it is 'May Day' for obesity - and all Government departments must tackle the growing health problem.

They named and shamed Yazoo and Mars drinks for being stuffed with additives and sugar - but avoiding the current levy which has seen sugar slashed in fizzy drinks.

They told MPs the Mars drink has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it while Yazoo has nine - and that it 'makes sense' to slap them with the sugar tax too.

Oliver told the Health and Social Care Select Committee: 'It is logical to interrogate whether they should be included (in the sugar tax).'

The pair also tore into the barrage of junk food adverts which children are bombarded with every day, and called for tougher restrictions.

Their warnings come just days after both men told of their own battles with their weight. 

Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (pictured in front of the health select committee in Parliament today) suggested the sugar tax should be extended to milkshakes. Fearnley-Whittingstall is pictured inspecting the large number of packs of sugar that used to be in Ribena before it was slashed following the introduction of the levy

Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (pictured in front of the health select committee in Parliament today) suggested the sugar tax should be extended to milkshakes. Fearnley-Whittingstall is pictured inspecting the large number of packs of sugar that used to be in Ribena before it was slashed following the introduction of the levy

The two celebrity chefs (pictured outside Parliament today after giving their evidence to MPs) said tackling bad health is a drain on taxpayer's money and the cash could be spent on vital services like the police if obesity was prevented

The two celebrity chefs (pictured outside Parliament today after giving their evidence to MPs) said tackling bad health is a drain on taxpayer's money and the cash could be spent on vital services like the police if obesity was prevented

The celebrity chefs teamed up today to demand ministers take tougher action to tackle childhood obesity as they appeared before the health and social care select committee today (pictured) 

The celebrity chefs teamed up today to demand ministers take tougher action to tackle childhood obesity as they appeared before the health and social care select committee today (pictured) 

Oliver said he is nearly a stone overweight and has hired a personal trainer to help him battle the bulge, while Fearnley-Whittingstall was told his sweet tooth left him at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

What is the sugar tax and what drinks are affected by it?

The sugar tax is an extra levy placed on soft drink, which came into force last month. 

Drinks with more than 8g per 100ml are taxed 24p per litre.

Those containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml are hit with a lower rate of tax, of 18p per litre.

Pure fruit juices will be exempt as they do not carry added sugar.

While drinks with a high milk-content, including Mars and Yazoo drinks , are also exempt because they have a lot of calcium.

Many drinks have slashed the amount of sugar in their drinks in order to escape the tax.

Leading brands such as Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have all done this.

But others, including Coca-Cola, have not. 

In England, the money raised by the tax is being spent on schools sports and breakfast clubs. 

The UK is one of a small handful of nations, including Mexico, France and Norway, which have introduced similar taxes. 

Oliver said that during an evening in front of the TV watching X Factor, children will be subjected to a 'junk food movie'. 

The celebrity chef dismissed criticisms that he is proposing 'nanny-state' style intervention by dictating to people what they should and should not eat.

And he said that when Britain quits the EU it will free ministers to take more drastic action to crack down on junk food.

He told the committee one of the 'upsides of Brexit being clearer labelling' on the amount of sugar in food.

He said everyone has to play a role in tackling the obesity epidemic, and insisted that he does not want to axe Tony the Tiger - who has fronted frosties for years - but put characters like him to use promoting healthier foods.

Fearnley-Whittingstall told MPs: 'We have seen an arms race with the big food brands competing with each other and backed by a huge amount of money…they are racing for our appetite and we are ultimately the losers.'

In a plea to the PM, he said: 'This is May Day for the obesity crisis – and you can read the word may any way you like.' 

While Oliver said the obesity crisis is a 'national security issue' because it costs the taxpayer a huge amount of money through the NHS.  

He said: 'I think to say it's a catastrophe or an emergency is fair and true. I think if you speak to anyone in the NHS - doctors, paediatricians, dentists - this is a massive problem.

'If you spoke to Mark Carney at the Bank of England, is British kids and adults being unhealthy and less productive good for the economy or bad, it's bad.'

The PM - pictured chatting with pupils at Brooklands Primary School in Sale, Manchester -described the UK's existing plans as 'ambitious' and 'world-leading'

The PM - pictured chatting with pupils at Brooklands Primary School in Sale, Manchester -described the UK's existing plans as 'ambitious' and 'world-leading'

The chefs are calling for a fleet of measures including a ban on junk food being advertised on TV before 9pm.

How much sugar is in Mars and Yazoo drinks?

Mars and Yazoo milkshake drinks were both singled out for their sugar content by Jamie Oliver.

A Yazoo strawberry milkshake, 472ml, has  11.5 teaspoons of sugar in it and is 283 calories.

The average man would have to jog for 30 minutes and a woman for 35 minutes to work it off, according to a study by Chester University.

A 400ml bottle of Mars drink has 24g worth of sugar - the equivalent of 27 per cent of a person's daily intake.

They branded the shop 'WH Sugar' and said that shops should do more to consider the health of their customers. 

Earlier, Oliver had said that plans for a crackdown on childhood obesity were 'blown up' by Brexit.

The celebrity chef said the EU referendum fallout derailed the drive for healthy eating reforms as he demanded Mrs May takes tougher action. 

But in today's select committee hearing he admitted that Brexit could allow Britain to take tougher action against junk food brands.

The Government is due to publish its strategy for tackling obesity later this year, with signs that it could impose tough new rules designed to protect children.

Both chefs have this week told about their own battles with their weight.

Oliver told The Sunday Mirror, he is hiring a personal trainer to hep him get thinner,.

He said: 'I am four kilos... six kilos... heavier than I should be.

'I will get rid of it in the next couple of months. I was always active as a kid and in pretty good nick until maybe the beginning of my 30s.

'And then I started to get just a little bit too chunky.'

Meanwhile,  Fearnley-Whittingstall, 53, has revealed doctors have warned him that alcohol and his sweet tooth has put him overweight and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Jamie Oliver, looking lean as he was photographerd this mourning ahead of his select committee appeaeranc e
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on College Green in Westminster, London, after he welcomed the announcement of a tax on sugary drinks, telling fellow campaigners: 'We did it!'

Jamie Oliver(pictured, left, today) has told how he has been told he should lose around a stone in weight- he was sporting a slimmer frame in 2016 (pictured, right) when he welcomed the introduction of the sugar tax

A GP who checked Fearnley-Whittingstall's height, weight and stomach size found that, at 12 stone 8lb, his body mass index (BMI) was 26.2 – meaning the River Cottage presenter was classified as overweight

A GP who checked Fearnley-Whittingstall's height, weight and stomach size found that, at 12 stone 8lb, his body mass index (BMI) was 26.2 – meaning the River Cottage presenter was classified as overweight

Last week the PM described the UK's existing plans as 'ambitious' and 'world-leading', but added that further action has not been ruled out 'if the right results aren't seen'.

Oliver pushed for former prime minister David Cameron to introduce reforms to tackle childhood obesity but accused successor Mrs May of halting progress.

The Commons session comes ahead of the next chapter of the Government's Childhood Obesity: A Plan For Action, which is expected this year.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today: 'I worked with Mr Cameron within his group to formulate chapter one, which of course, with Brexit and everything that happened got blown up.

'Mrs May took over, they pushed it out.'

He said: 'It's now time for a much sterner, broader, intelligent and strategic attack on childhood obesity.'

Oliver said buy one, get one free offers were designed to make people eat more.

'If you're skint, it is really tough,' he said. 

The chefs will appear before the Health Select Committee later. 

Other witnesses due to appear include academics, health and fiscal experts, who will give their assessment of the Government's performance in this area, and say what they expect from the next part of the plan.

Oliver has long been a campaigner for healthy eating, particularly when it comes to children. 

He previously faced criticism over comments he made about families eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers in front of a large television.

Asked about the remarks, he said: 'I've learnt a lot in 15 years and when I talk to a lot of people I have tried very, very hard to get my hands dirty, work in the most unhealthy parts of the towns.'

His fellow chef has a new BBC series out, Britain's Fat Fight With Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, looking at why people are eating so much.

 

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