Jamie Oliver is a shit spewing blowhard

I was listening to the CBC’s “Q” yesterday and they had Jamie Oliver on as a guest promoting his idea to tax “big Sugar”. Whatever, crazier people have pulled bigger turds from their butts and screamed louder for our attention. I don’t normally pay much attention to the guy, and didn’t intend to but I had to stop and listen at one point because I seriously thought he was doing an impression of Fred Armisen’s SNL character, Nicholas Fehn.

Every time he got close to making a point, he would veer off to another statement that he wouldn’t finish saying. It was like listening to failing amateur improv. I had to take the battery out of my bullshit detector, so loud was its mooing alarm. So loud in fact my satire detector accidentally went off with a weak “heh heh, he’s doing a bit, right?”

I’ve actually gone to the show’s website and replayed the interview so I can transcribe the part that caught my attention:

“…But you know, I think um, look: at the end of the day,…like actually, the most controversial thing that I’m talking about at the moment isn’t actually the tax. The tax will drop off 6 or 7 percent, it will raise a billion quid in the UK, and we’ll spend that on kids’ education and hospitals. That isn’t… Even easier than that is - if you look on my Facebook - like just putting 4 teaspoons on the front of a pack, that will drop off sales even more because everyone, even scientists - When I went to the House of Commons the other day, I just hacked a load of bowls and just put teaspoons on, right above the normal ones, and everyone was just, ‘Gasp, Oh, gasp!’, and they’re scientists and doctors! And the thing is, like 100% of the population (100%!), like, I haven’t met anyone yet that doesn’t believe that teaspoons are the fastest, quickest, most robust way to empower busy people to make better decisions, but the industry will hate that because that will drop off sales even more than my little tax.”

This was in response to the host asking him to address New York’s ban on large sugary drinks being struck down due to “personal autonomy”. He started off praising Bloomberg for being a noble patrician before interrupting himself with the above logorrhea.

The host then follows with,"…You mentioned the poll: 65% of the people support the tax. At the same time, your prime minister opposes the idea -"

At which point Oliver interrupts:

*Oliver: “No he doesn’t!”

Host: “He doesn’t?”
Oliver**: “No! No, he probably won’t do it, but he has - I’ve met him. I’ve had several meeting with him. I was with him last Sunday. Like, he’s not,…he’s open minded to like,…he, uh,…he has to launch a childhood obesity strategy, um, in the next four months, and it’s got to be good! And my job is to make him brave* - and good ain’t good enough, by the way! - so um, at the moment, currently, uh, from his mouth to me, like, he’s to-, he’s open minded to anything. Not just taxing, but also where the money from the tax is hypothecated, alright? So like, he hasn’t said ‘no’…yet,…um, and I - he might not do it, I’m not saying he will do it, I’m saying he might not do it, but he’s open minded, so I think…the difference is: how radical wil he be? You know, um…”
Host**: “So you really think you can win this one?”

Oliver: “Depends if you want to judge me on winning being ‘on’ or ‘off’, or is it about the splash or the ripples? All I know is that I’m doing my job, and like, when,…in my personal opinion? Like… honesty and clarity is… the story?.. and… the… biggest… problem?.. is disadvantaged… four to eleven year old kids. They’re the ones who are most at risk… um, and, uh, their busy parents that might not know about food or have been taught about food or know where it comes from or how it affects their body at home (or at school!). You know, what you have to understand is that the food industry loves confusion, right? And clarity - you know, humans are really good! You know, when humans get good clear information, they often - OFTEN! - make good choices. And it doesn’t mean that they can’t, you know, go off piece, 'cause we like going off piece, right? But at least we know when we’re doing what, so,…we’ll see. We’ll see.”*
What the ever loving fuck are you even saying, Jamie?!

You can watch the entire interview here, if for no reason other than to watch Jamie Oliver do a better Nicholas Fehn than Fred Armisen.

  • At this point, the host physically backs away from his mic like somebody farted; as if the bullshit from Oliver’s mouth was so powerful it was breaking the divide between the figurative and literal and had acquired an actual stench and the host just caught a little bit of it in his mouth. Didn’t catch it the first time because I was listening on the radio, but when I saw that while transcribing from the video, I lost it. It happens at about 6:30 in the interview.

wow, you must really really like sugar

He might have been incoherent in stating his idea but a tax on unhealthy food is a great idea. Obesity kills indirectly as many or more people than Alcohol. Spend the money raised on education programs and subsidising healthy food.

I’d even support the idea that all meals and food with more than 700 calories that are intended to be consumed by a single person in a single sitting should have to have GIANT BOLD LETTER WARNINGS with the total amount of calories and the percentage of the average daily recommendation that it consists of.

New York’s ban on large sugary drinks was struck down because a state judge ruled that the New York City Board of Health did not have the authority to ban a legal product under the guise of protecting the population from chronic diseases. Basically Bloomberg went through the Board of Health because he couldn’t get enough support among legislators to make a law limiting the size of beverages sold.

While I appreciate his mockney accent is probably hard for an American ear, your transcript has a number of issues (Off piste, not off piece)

And a tax on sugar is an entirely reasonable idea, which has a number of medical organisations backing it (The British Medical Association, for example: http://www.bma.org.uk/foodforthought )

So not really a convincing pitting I’m afraid.

This may have been an off day for Jamie, but I spent an evening with him in the spring. My wife won a contest to fly to London and cook with him and I was the lucky plus one.

Wy wife is passionate about healthy cooking and eating for kids, as is Jamie. We had a great, articulate conversation about it as we cooked together. He knows what needs to be changed and has some great ideas.

Pretty lame pitting here.

Anthony Bourdain from Medium Raw:

The latter would not matter in the slightest. The thing is, WE DON’T FUCKING CARE. Putting calorie counts on menus correlated with an uptick of calorie consumption.

Hell, that’s why you want a tax. You can’t actually make people truly give a shit about obesity, so you have to force it. Thing is, it’s a chicken-egg issue. If you could get enough people to care about obesity, there would no longer need to be a law.

And that’s without getting into the moral issues. What right do you have to force someone else to reduce their likelihood of dying? Why do you think the bare fact that obesity causes death is enough to curtail freedoms? At what point do you draw the line and say that the cause is too indirectly connected to the negative effect?

And, on a personal matter–have you ever personally been obese? Because I find very few obese people who are okay with this sort of thing. It smacks of a sort of privilege–tax those OTHER people who aren’t ME.

I personally am obese (surprise surprise). I have long ago made peace with the fact that I always will be. There is too much shit in my life–mostly due to lack of money to fix them–for me to even attempt to burden myself with eating healthier. Unhealthy foods are one of life’s simple pleasures that makes life worth living. There are times when the idea of eating something really good is what gets me up in the morning.

I have medical reasons that keep me from eating foods I would so love to eat, as the versions I can eat are more expensive. Throw in the government limiting it further? I would sooner vote for Donald Trump’s more extreme(ly racist’s) cousin than allow that shit.

And I’m far from alone.

And here was me looking for holiday ideas for spring.

I pit Oliver on the grounds that his principled stand sullies the purity of my hatred for the fat tongued mockney gobshite.

I live in a country that has universal health care. Increased health costs from massive rates of obesity are a real problem. Fast food companies that profit from this should help bear the costs of cleaning up the enormous mess they are creating. Plain labelling and graphic warnings have worked on cigarettes, there is no reason it couldn’t work on stupidly high calorie foods. There is absolutely no reason chain restaurants should be selling meals with 3800 calories. But if they do then they and their customers should pay a sin tax just like you do with alcohol and cigarettes.

And no I’m not obese, but I do need to lose about 15 kg, thanks for asking.

But the product itself wasn’t being banned, was it? Just the size. You could still have bought as much of the drink as you wanted, just not in that particular size.

Yes, I have been. Now I’m not. Go me.

And I fully support the sugar tax, because the arguments the BMA make seem sound to me. It’s easy for manufacturers to make bad food taste better with sugar, and it’s a cheap ingredient to add. Because of that it’s the poor who are most affected by dumping sugar in convenience foods. It shouldn’t be the the cheap, go to option for food companies. Someone explain to me why the relatively healthier Coca Cola Life is more expensive than the more heavily sugared product?

Taxing is a standard economic practice to prevent companies and individuals engaging in undesired behaviour. It’s well worth a try.

Well, Jamie Oliver has certainly succeeded at being an annoying nag.

I’m sick of the health Nazis nagging constantly, especially since what we “know” about diet is extremely faddish and tends to change every few years.

And taxing fizzy drinks? Low-hanging fruit. A lot of food has a lot of sugar, but it’s always the fizzy drinks. Who the hell thinks a 32-oz Coca-Cola is **good **for you? Oliver thinks you’re too stupid to know this:

And he admits a tax like this treats people like children:

So…choosing to have a fizzy sweet drink means you should go on the naughty step?

Like alcohol – which Oliver has explained you can consume in moderation – one can consume sugar, fat, and so on, in a way that is consistent with a healthy lifestyle. It takes some education and watching what you put into your mouth, but nothing more. It’s not goddamn rocket science.

Alcohol is taxed rather heavily in most countries. Ginormous gut busting 1500+ calorie meals are not at present.

Until a few years ago I was of much the same mind - all things in moderation, failure of will by hopeless fat bastards who get what they deserve. However one doesn’t have to look very hard to find plenty of solid science that indicates that the purveyors of sugary, fatty, salty foods are using the equivalent of rocket science to just about enslave consumers while they are young. If we look at obesity rates I think we see the proof of the pudding…

Funny thing about the current approbrium is that the “Tax” is only applied at his own restaurants at the moment and the money collected is in fact used by a charity for health education. Further Oliver says it has caused a 6-7% drop in sales of sugary drinks.

While Oliver doesn’t really do a very good job of explaining this, the practical purpose of the sugar tax isn’t to make people feel like children. It’s to incentivise people to buy diet alternatives. A 32-oz Coca-Cola contains about 500 calories. A 32-oz diet Coca-Cola contains about 5, if that. If taxing the regular Coke gets people to buy the diet stuff instead, it’s a win-win for everybody. The consumer who switches to diet Coke wins because he’s making a healthier choice while getting virtually the same experience in terms of taste for the same price. The government wins because it’s earning more tax revenue from those people who stick with real Coke and because fewer people are giving themselves expensive chronic diseases like diabetes. Even the soft drink manufacturers win. They’re not actually losing customers, because people who like Coke and don’t want to pay the extra tax are just going to switch to diet, and, if enough people switch, they might lose some of that ‘junk food’ stigma they’re carrying around at the moment.

Given how much they cost society, I honestly can’t think of any substantive reason not to tax sugary products, especially soft drinks.

Jamie Oliver has the best of intentions but his extreme intellectual dishonesty that goes along with promoting those intentions makes him hard to watch.

During one of his British TV shows about improving school lunches, he demonstrates the process of making pink slime by pouring in approximately a pint of ammonia into a pile of chicken carcasses (in reality, the amount of ammonia used is in the parts per thousand) and then purees them in a way that maximizes the grossness. He then asks the children if they would ever eat McDonalds Chicken Nuggets again and they predictably say no which doesn’t prove much because almost any dish can be made to seem that gross if you try.

The problem is, he did the same show in America and did the exact same demonstration, except with a tiny aside mentioning that McDonalds US doesn’t use pink slime because it’s prohibited by law. Unless you already knew this fact, the show was edited in a way that you never would have picked this up.

I’ve seen him do the pink slime demo a couple of times now in different shows and he absolutely shows no interest in understanding how the process actually works and representing it fairly to an audience. If you know anything about nutrition whatsoever, you start to see the litany of deliberate obfuscations and manipulations Jamie does in the service of very sensible ideas and worthwhile goals.

In the UK, we already pay tax on soft drinks, just like on all luxury products (and many that aren’t luxuries, but that’s another issue). Adding further tax to the 20% VAT is unnecessary, and the idea that “diet” drinks actually lead to better health or weight loss has been shown to be false.

Adding VAT to microwave meals and prepared desserts and such, to match takeaways and restaurant food, might well be a good idea. Basically, keep ingredients tax free so cooking your own meals is cheaper than buying pre-prepared ones.

I don’t have a problem with a sugar tax. I’m not under any delusion that a sugar tax will make folks lose weight. But if the revenue can be used to buy Jazzy scooters for those who can’t walk anymore due to obesity-related ailments, then how I’m all for it. The government has way more important things to do than go bankrupt taking care of sugar junkies.

People crying like someone’s taking sugar out of their mouth need to go sit their fat asses down somewhere, IMHO. You are perfectly entitled to slowly kill yourselves. But you aren’t entitled to do that on the cheap.