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Oliver backs 'nanny state' for food

Published 15/05/2015

Jamie Oliver says diet-related diseases are a major concern and healthy eating is a public health issue
Jamie Oliver says diet-related diseases are a major concern and healthy eating is a public health issue

Britain should be a "nanny state" about food to ensure children are healthy, according to Jamie Oliver.

The celebrity chef said the nation has come a long way, but diet-related diseases are still a major concern and healthy eating, especially for youngsters, is a public health issue.

Speaking to the Press Association on his annual Food Revolution Day, he made a fresh call for a 20% tax on sugary drinks and warned that parents should find it uncomfortable that the UK is the unhealthiest country in Europe, with children likely to live a shorter life than their mothers and fathers.

As part of Food Revolution Day, Oliver is leading a campaign for all G20 nations - which include the UK - to make practical food education a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

A change.org petition warning that the world is facing a global obesity epidemic, with 42 million youngsters under five classed as overweight or obese, has already gathered more than 1.2 million signatures.

"I think a parent's job is to say no, a parent's job is to be nanny," he said, adding that when he was working with then Labour prime minister Tony Blair on school dinners 10 years ago there was an obsession with "we don't want to be nanny state".

"No, at the right time we do have to be nanny state - we love, we take care, we nurture," the chef said. "School dinners was all about love and taking care. We didn't have standards. There were standards for dog food, but not kids' food. It's 2015, it's 10 years on, the story continues. It's not over."

Under the current system, practical cooking is a compulsory part of the curriculum for schools in England up to age 14. However, academies and free schools - which are state schools free from local council control - do not have to follow the national curriculum. A new GCSE in cooking and nutrition is also being brought in.

Oliver, who said the response to the campaign had been "amazing", said the British government had "come a long way" with other nations now learning about food service from UK schools.

He argued that parents can help their children stay healthy and should have support to do so.

But he added: "Food education still remains important because we've got two, three generations of parents who maybe never grew up in a house where they were taught to cook, or taught at school either. This is probably the first generation where kids might teach the parents about food and where it comes from and how it affects their body."

An impact can be made by ensuring children eat the right foods for breakfast and lunch during term time, he said, and it should also be easier for parents to choose decent food.

"I think there should be much more legislation on marketing of rubbish, junk food, much more incentives for fruit and veg - or veg and fruit, more importantly," the TV chef said.

"It is now law in Britain to have food education and we should be very proud of that. But now I've won that mini-battle in Britain, and of course this campaign is about the world, this petition is still important to sign because I need to show David Cameron that this is really, really important, that if he doesn't help the flow of enthusiasm, we're going to make his life a bit awkward."

He also called for more funding.

Oliver said: "We always need more money, and what we can't do is take from NHS budgets, because they're already stretched, we can't take from school budgets because they're already stretched.

"So we need new money. I have my opinion, which is I think we should absolutely follow France and Mexico in a 20% sugary drinks tax. Absolutely. It's seven pence on a can.

"No real Brit cares about that, not one that cares about the heart and soul of their country - the NHS and their schools and their kids. I want that money for your kids."

This tax would raise around £1 billion a year, Oliver said, which could be split between health and education.

"We're the most unhealthy country in Europe," he warned. "If you're a parent, you should feel uncomfortable that statistically your child will live a shorter life that you. You should be uncomfortable and it should bother you."

He went on to say: "Even if you find me deeply annoying, it shouldn't matter because I will take your signature on that petition and I will take it to the G20 and I promise to carry on being annoying whoever is running the country, because the NHS, teachers, we've got to help them be the best they can be.

Oliver unveiled a song yesterday that was recorded for Food Revolution Day with the help of some celebrity friends .

A video for the track shows the chef teaming up with musicians including Ed Sheeran, Professor Green, Hugh Jackman, Alesha Dixon and Sir Paul McCartney.

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