A STAUNCH supporter of a tax on sugar to fight obesity has received a prestigious award for promoting science.

Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University, was criticised and faced “hostility” because she worked for the government and a drinks company at the same time.

But she has now been awarded the international 2015 John Maddox Prize for her courage.

Prof Jebb, 51, has been recognised for her work on a diverse range of issues of public concern – from food supplements to dieting.

Public health chiefs have advised the Health Secretary to introduce a sugar tax as part of a range of measures to tackle child obesity.

Prof Jebb said: “I have always been in favour of a sugar tax but it is not the answer to everything – there are problems with our diets beyond too much sugar. People eat too much fat and consume too little fruit and veg.”

The mother-of-one told how she was criticised in an article in the British Medical Journal earlier this year for working on a project with a drinks company to test a diet drink, while at the same time being a government advisor.

Prof Jebb said tests showed ingredients added to the drink to suppress appetite did not work and the drink was not put on the market.

She added: “I thought it was better for the drink to be tested by independent scientists than the company themselves.

“The issue raised by the BMJ was that there could be a conflict of interest in working with the drinks industry and advising the government at the same time, but there was no evidence of that.

“These relationships (with industry) have to be transparent and there needs to be contracts in place that safeguard independence.”

Charity Sense About Science, which backs the prize, said Prof Jebb had tackled “misconceptions” about sugar in the media and endured personal attacks but continued to engage with the public on issues of dietary advice.