Jamie Oliver says Theresa May is failing children over obesity plans


Jamie Oliver has accused the Prime Minister of failing British children as he heavily criticised the Government's plans to tackle childhood obesity.

The chef dismissed the childhood obesity strategy after the boss of one of the nation's biggest supermarkets called for a more radical approach - including wide-ranging restrictions on the food and drink industry.

Oliver added his influential voice to the chorus of criticism from doctors, health campaigners and politicians that met the long-awaited proposals when they were unveiled on Thursday.

Key elements of the plan include cutting sugar in foods eaten by children by 20% and a tax on sugary drinks to raise money for school sports.

However ministers were accused of watering down the strategy, which Jeremy Hunt had previously said needed to be a "game changing moment" to tackle a "national emergency".

According to reports the Health Secretary had wanted tougher measures, but was overruled by Theresa May.

Oliver, who has long been at the forefront of campaigning to improve the nation's diet, said Mrs May had failed in her first true test as PM as he mounted his attack in The Times.

The restaurateur, who recently became a father for the fifth time, said: "On Wednesday night my kids asked me why I was looking grumpy, so I had to explain to them that the Prime Minister had let British children down."

"It could have been one of the most important pieces of work of our time, but instead it was prepared and delivered in the most underhand, insensitive, unstrategic way. Everything about it stinks of 'we don't care'. We need to face facts: this problem won't go away unless we face it head on," he said.

"Theresa May did not ask for insight; she did not ask for perspective. It's crystal clear to me that the health of our nation is absolutely not on the agenda for Mrs May and her Government."

Oliver said the fight against childhood obesity needed a "single-minded" leader with sweeping powers to impose measures from controls on television advertising to the positioning of sweets within range of youngsters in supermarkets.

He also called for the appointment of a minister with the responsibility for driving a comprehensive strategy across all Government departments as part of an "aggressive and decisive" 10-year plan.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's, said the strategy had fallen well short of being a comprehensive plan.

In a letter to The Times, he said while it was a "welcome first step", sweeping regulations to improve the nutritional content of food and drink were needed.

Targeting sugar alone will not be enough to combat the "systemic challenge", he said as he called for "compulsory and measured targets for the reduction of sugar (and other nutrients such as saturated fat) across the whole of the food and drink industry".

Mr Coupe said the Government had missed a first opportunity to bring in "traffic light" labelling across the food and drink sector, with the markers on products in shops, restaurants and takeaways.

Sainsbury's is "committed to being part of the solution," he said, adding: "I urge the Government to treat this strategy as the first step on a journey, but the next step needs to be more radical and needs to come quickly."

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison - who helped draw up the strategy in her previous role as public health minister - said on Thursday the plans are "the most ambitious programme of reformulation that any developed country has undertaken".