Jamie Oliver

The UK government has said definitively that there are “no plans” to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.

Responding to an online petition launched by Jamie Oliver, the government said today (21 September) it had “no plans to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages”. 

It added: “The causes of obesity are complex, caused by a number of dietary, lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors, and tackling it will require a comprehensive and broad approach. 

“As such, the government is considering a range of options for tackling childhood obesity, and the contribution that government, alongside industry, families and communities can make, and will announce its plans for tackling childhood obesity by the end of the year.”

The government’s announcement comes two weeks after a petition was posted online by Oliver to add a seven pence tax surcharge per regular-sized can of soft drink with added sugar.

The online petition has generated nearly 150,000 signatures to date and was boosted by Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary, which aired on Channel 4 on 3 September - a week after the petition was published.

In the documentary, which forms part of Oliver’s broader campaign against added sugar in food, the chef claimed too much sugar in drinks and food was the key driver behind the growing obesity problem in the UK. 

If a petition reaches more than 100,000 signatures, the government must decide whether it should be debated in parliament. It has yet to decide whether Oliver’s petition warrants such a debate, and said it will announce a decision on whether it will be heard by MPs within the next fortnight.

When Sugar Rush launched, Oliver said he was “utterly confident” Prime Minister David Cameron would consider a sugar tax. 

A spokesman for Oliver declined to comment.