He told MPs on the House of Commons Health Committee that successive Governments had done ‘an incredible disservice to children’ by failing to clamp down on unhealthy diets.
The chef – who has introduced a 10p tax on sugary drinks across his UK restaurants – is calling for the levy to be included in the Government’s forthcoming childhood obesity strategy.
It is estimated that a tax of 7p per regular sized can of drink could generate an additional £1bn a year to be used to fund children’s health programmes.
A petition launched by Oliver in September calling for the tax to be introduced received over 148,000 signatures.
But it was rejected by the Government, which claimed it had ‘no plans’ to implement the charge.
However, the chef said he did not think the tax had been ‘written off’.
“The discussions I’ve had are robust and Mr Cameron is reviewing everything, [and] seems to be interrogating it really well,” he said.
“We need to make sure that he is brave.”
The chef has encouraged the restaurant industry to follow his example in introducing a voluntary levy, and so far Leon, Abokado, Tortilla and Angela Reed Cafe & Bakery have signed up.
Oliver was also challenged by the committee as to why he provided a breakdown of calories and carbohydrates on menus in his restaurants, but not sugar information.
“We could do it very easily,” he said.
“In our opinion we’ve focused on sugar sweetened drinks because it’s the single largest source consumed by kids. I think our customers come to us about twice a year, [so] it’s an indulgence.
“I also sell Coca Cola, and some people say why don’t you just ban it? I’m not suggesting a ban on all sugary sweetened drinks because I’d be kicked out of Britain very quickly, but I am suggesting a tax which we’ve self-imposed.”
Oliver explained that since introducing the levy he had seen a drop-off in sales of sugary drinks across his 46 restaurants, with the money raised going to benefit local schools.
He added that funds generated by a nationwide tax could also be used to support the NHS.
“I believe the home should be part NHS – supporting our nurses and doctors and practitioners to have proactive outreach in the home to people who suffer from diet-related disease…and the other side is primary schools,” said Oliver.
“Half a billion pounds divided by primary schools in this country is £20,000 – that’s proper money.”
The government strategy on childhood obesity is expected to be published next year.