Both Jamie Oliver and the Mexican Government Hate Soda

To combat a perceived dietary evil, the royal chef turned foodie do-gooder is adding a soda surcharge at his restaurants.

Jamie Oliver poses with schoolchildren in front of the Houses of Parliament during an open-top bus tour of London on May 15 to promote Food Revolution Day. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

Ever since his flagship show The Naked Chef debuted on Food Network in 1999, Jamie Oliver has used his perpetually expanding platform to try to change the world for the better (teaching people how to make moules marinières on camera only does so much). The celebrity chef-tivist and restaurateur has taken on unhealthy school lunches, childhood hunger, and diet-related disease. Now hes setting his sights on something so sinister that he refers to it as “the new tobacco”: sugar.

RELATED: Mexico's Soda Tax Is Working

Oliver will be adding a 10 pence (about 16 cents) surcharge to sugar-sweetened beverages purchased at his 41 restaurants across the United Kingdom. All the money will be donated to Sustain, a charity that “supports childrens health food initiatives across Britain.” Oliver adds, “Ive seen firsthand the heartbreaking effects that poor diet and too much sugar is having on our childrens health and we have to start here.”

There’s another powerful entity with a massive platform that really wants people to stop drinking soda: the Mexican government. In January 2014, Mexico—the reigning world champ in both obesity and soda guzzling—passed a seven-peso (about one cent) tax on every liter of sugar-sweetened beverage.

According to The Guardian, the Mexican National Institute of Public Health and the University of North Carolina have carried out an evaluation of the impact of the tax that shows it cut purchases by an average of 6 percent across 2014 and by as much as 12 percent in the last part of the year. The effect was greatest on lower-income households, who cut their purchases by an average of 9 percent across the 12 months and by 17 percent in the later months. The impact appears to be similar to that of taxes on tobacco and other goods that are hard to give up; the drop in sales increases over time. However, its too early to know the full scope of the long-term health benefits.

So, Why Should You Care? A widespread and expanding obesity problem in the U.S. is leading to higher rates of diabetes, which puts people at a higher risk for heart disease and burdens the health care system with avoidable costs. A 10 percent increase in soda price in Oakland, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago; and Minneapolis led to a 7 percent drop among participants, according to the study Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, which was begun at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1985. According to the lead author of the study, “A substantial soda tax is probably the single most effective way we could reduce obesity."