Jamie Oliver calls on caterers to back anti-obesity measures during 'Eton Mess' protest
Jamie Oliver has called on the hospitality industry to back anti-obesity measures during a protest at Downing Street today.
The chef and a crowd of supporters rallied in London for at ‘Eton Mess' demonstration after the government backtracked on banning ‘buy one get one free' (BOGOF) offers on junk food.
Oliver held aloft a giant version of the pudding, which he said was symbolic of the "privilege and mess" within the government.
Restrictions on multi-buy deals and advertising foods high in fat, salt or sugar have been delayed for a year, which the government said was due to the cost of living crisis.
During the protest the chef praised supermarket Tesco, which has said it will press ahead with a ban on BOGOF promotions from October this year, despite the government U-turn.
Oliver told The Caterer it would be "amazing" to see catering companies take a similar approach and move forward with more anti-obesity measures voluntarily.
He said: "Ultimately, quite a large sector of the [catering industry] is looking after kids, and there's 1.2m kids on free school lunches currently. Those families have to earn as a household less than £7,500 a year [to qualify], that's tough.
"That hot breakfast, that hot lunch is incredibly important. It's not just a job and a service, it's public service."
When asked if he would like to see more support from operators for his campaign, Oliver said: "Me and the catering and hospitality industry have a long history. If I go back 15 years when we were trying to create the first standards for kids' food in schools, [when] there were no legal standards [for it] but there was for dog food, I think they thought I was the enemy.
"Actually, what we did was create a level playing field. We created standards, it meant that councils couldn't just fight over the lowest price, there was more money in the system."
The chef said he knew it was "challenging times", but that it was the industry's job to provide an offer that was "fit for purpose" in venues such as hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.
Thomasina Miers, co-founder of the Wahaca restaurant chain and a trustee of Chefs in Schools, also attended the protest.
She told The Caterer it was difficult for some businesses to get behind anti-obesity measures without government legislation in place to ensure all companies obeyed the rules.
Miers said: "Tesco and Greggs' [chief executives] both said they need a level playing field. These are food businesses with shareholders that need to make money.
"In order to make their food healthier they need to know that their competitors are doing the same, so they don't start losing market share. We've got to help businesses to do the right thing."
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