Government inaction over the country's obesity crisis is "killing" Britons, according to school meal champion Jamie Oliver in a fresh attack on public health policies.
The celebrity chef has not been shy in making known his views on the coalition's approach to health issues.
Last year, he dismissed Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's "national ambition" to tackle obesity as "worthless, regurgitated, patronising rubbish", while Education Secretary Michael Gove was accused of "eroding" school meal standards for not making nutritional guidelines mandatory in free schools and academies.
Oliver's latest assault came during a visit to Australia, where he was launching a new Ministry of Food centre. He said: "We are lacking real leadership in Britain, sadly, and it's killing us - literally. That whole Government - they lack any imagination."
In response, the Department of Health said it has "strong plans" to reduce levels of obesity by 2020, according to the Guardian.
"These include giving councils a ring-fenced budget for public health, working with industry to show people how many calories are in the foods they eat and working with business on plans to help people eat fewer calories," said a Government spokeswoman. "There are encouraging signs that the level of obesity among children as a whole is stabilising."
But Oliver's criticism was welcomed by healthy eating champions, including LACA (formerly the Local Authority Caterers Association), the National Obesity Forum and the Children's Food Campaign.
Lynda Mitchell, chair of LACA, emphasised its fear that without a single set of nutritional standards in all schools there is serious potential to derail the progress made in improving school food over the last six years.
She said: "Many of those in the industry who have worked so hard to provide the world-class service we have, are equally frustrated that a two-tier system is being allowed to develop and can see how this could impact on, not only the provision of demonstrably healthier meals, but also on the future of the industry.
"He is clearly not about to let this issue, which he feels very strongly about, drop."
Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum and founder of the Child Growth Foundation, pointed out that the Labour government had the "grace to listen" when Oliver made the case for healthy school meals back in 2005.
"But the current Government has not. When it was told by its own advisers the measures it should continue with to make our children healthy, it not only did not listen but it fired the advisers," he added.
Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, which is backed by health, education and children's charities, said: "It's a shame that Jamie isn't our health secretary - he wouldn't share the Government's fear of taking the steps needed to tackle the nation's obesity crisis and poor dietary habits.
"Instead of robust action to protect our health, the Government gives us weak, industry-friendly policies which have little chance of changing people's long-term behaviour. Austere times is not an acceptable reason for lacking an effective public health strategy."
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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