Jamie Oliver pushes for minister of healthy eating

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 7th November 2008

Popular UK chef Jamie Oliver has claimed there is a need for a minister of healthy eating to eradicate the obesity “horror show” engulfing the UK.

“We are not in a great place, but we are in a place from which it can be fixed,” Oliver said. “If we leave it, it will be like America, where it is almost not worth it, because it’s so ingrained.”

The star of TV shows including Ministry of Food and Jamie’s School Dinners and the author of a number of books told the Commons health committee that he would not be willing to take on the job himself but would be happy to act as a headhunter for the government.

“I want someone to be accountable,” he said. “I would like to see someone from the private sector with real savvy, who could inspire and motivate local authorities.”

Oliver has been campaigning to improve the food eaten by British people in his most recent TV shows and, in his 90-minute discussion with the Committee, he outlined his belief that controlling the level of obesity was now a “bloody emergency”. He warned that any recession would highlight that lack of culinary expertise of the public as, with more people trying to save money, many will go to cheap fast food joints or cook up unhealthy meals in order to reduce costs.

“This is the first time in British history where you haven’t got most of the population able to cook and you can statistically see where people are spending their money now and fast food options are up,”  he noted. “I don’t want to demonise fast food. Burgers taste good, pizzas taste good, kebabs taste good (but) what we’ve got is a large group of people (only) buying into those options.”

Other ideas he put forward were the adoption of similar legislation to California to cap the number of fast food restaurants and a suggestion of supermarkets to “adopt” a school – whereby they would provide ingredients for cooking classes.

Oliver also criticised the EU for their labelling system. “I wish it never existed,” he told the committee.