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Jamie Oliver Accuses Boris Johnson Of Playing Politics With Children's Health Over Obesity Plans

Jamie Oliver has criticised Boris Johnson for "playing politics" with childhood obesity plans

3 min read

Celebrity Chef and healthy food campaigner Jamie Oliver has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of "playing politics" with children's health.

Johnson had vocally supported plans to improve the nation's eating habits after he partially attributed his 2020 stay in intensive care with Covid-19 to obesity, but seems set to reverse his position and possibly dump the policy as part of a "red meat strategy" to overturn flagging support with his party.

Writing for The House magazine, Oliver was critical of suggestion Johnson could abandon his commitment to obesity strategy.  

"When Boris Johnson came into office he initially wasn’t too keen on these policies. His team wanted to do things differently," he wrote. 

"But then he got Covid and nearly died, which he himself attributed to obesity. And so he began to take the issue very seriously. He studied the evidence and in July 2020 he published a very strong obesity strategy.

"And yet, these are the very same policies he may be about to abandon." 

He added: "Children's health and access to nutritious food should be a non-negotiable priority. It should be the first thing every Prime Minister and Minister thinks about. It should be above party politics. It’s a human right. And a child’s right."

Oliver also pointed towards a new study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which found London Mayor Sadiq Khan's policy to ban junk food adverts on public transport in the capital had resulted in households buying 1,000 fewer calories each week from junk food.

The study credited the policy, introduced in 2019, with shrinking demand for chocolate and other unhealthy foods in the capital compared to other parts of England while also increasing ad revenue with companies seeking to advertise healthier products.

Oliver said it proved that ending the promotion of junk was a "win for both health and business".

"These policies are also massively popular with parents whose biggest priority is their children’s health and who would love their lives to be made that little bit easier by reducing pester power," he added.

"Support for junk food advertising restrictions on TV and online is currently at 74% according to a recent ComRes poll."

His comments come just weeks after Leon restaurant founder and author of the government's National Food Strategy, Henry Dimbleby, said reducing reliance on junk food was "critical to the continuation of decent civilisation".

Speaking to The House, Dimbleby said he remained "pretty relaxed" about the government's lack of response to his strategy, insisting ministers recognised the urgent need to tackle obesity.

But Oliver urged Johnson to "step up" and put children's health above "short-term political interest". 

"Boris Johnson prides himself on delivering," he said. "My question to him is whether he will put child health above his perceived narrow short-term political interest? Will he step up, follow the science and actually deliver?"

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