For several weeks now the British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been waging a dogged and passionate campaign calling for the UK government to introduce a tax on food products containing excessive amounts of sugar. The proposal has the support of the British Medical Association and the National Obesity Forum.
On Thursday of this week the campaign was given a further boost by the publication of a report by Public Health England. The report, whose publication had previously been suppressed by the government, also recommended the introduction of sugar tax to help tackle obesity and other health problems, and argued that such a measure could save the National Health Service around £5 billion million a year.
On the day the report was finally published the Prime Minister’s office stated that David Cameron “doesn’t see a need for a tax on sugar”. The same spokesperson confirmed that Mr Cameron has not actually read the report (despite having plenty of opportunity to do so during the many months that the government delayed its publication).
It is a fact that Mr Cameron’s government and his party have close links to companies in the food industry that would suffer if a sugar tax was introduced.
In 2010 global food Giants McDonald’s, KFC, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo were invited to help write government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease. In recent months senior representatives from Mars, Coca-Cola and Nestle have been hosted at Downing Street.
The global sugar giant Tate and Lyle has a long history of financial support for the Conservative party, as has the baking giant Warburtons, which last year was identified as one of a number of bakers putting more additional sugar in its “healthier” brown breads than is found in its white. Lord Sainsbury, whose family run the supermarket chain, is another prominent supporter.
There may well be others but trying to identify them is a considerable challenge. Despite recent changes designed to make the system of UK political donations more transparent, relatively large donors who wish to remain undetected can do so by staging payments in a way that keeps their identity below the radar.
So there is reason to question whether Mr Cameron’s stance on the proposal to tax foods with excessive sugar is motivated by what he believes is in the best interests of UK citizens and of the NHS, or the best interests of the Conservative party and its benefactors.
This week’s recipe is for a delightful side dish, where wonderful oriental flavours perfectly complement the natural sweetness of freshly picked carrots. In creating this dish I have used small, sweet Chantenay carrots from my allotment plot, the Circus Garden. If you can’t source similarly small carrots use regular carrots cut into batons about the thickness of your thumb.
sweet and sour glazed carrots
450 g Chantenay or similar sized carrots
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 star anise
1 lemongrass stalk, crushed with the flat of a knife blade
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp toasted Sesame oil
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1. Place the carrots in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, star anise, lemongrass, maple syrup, soy sauce, coconut oil and sesame oil. Now add just enough water to cover the carrots.
2. Cook the carrots over a high heat until the water begins to boil. Reduce the heat slightly but keep the pan at a rolling boil. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are tender. Drain, and remove the garlic and lemongrass.
3. Squeeze the lime juice over the carrots. Serve scattered with the toasted sesame seeds and the chopped coriander.