Jamie Oliver stages 'Eton Mess' protest at Downing Street over government's anti-obesity U-turn

Geraint Vincent reports for ITV News from Westminster.

Jamie Oliver has led a protest outside Downing Street over the government's U-turn on its anti-obesity strategy.

The TV chef organised an "Eton Mess" demonstration on Friday afternoon following the decision to delay pledges to end junk food promotions and ban adverts for unhealthy foods aimed at children.

Carrying a giant version of the pudding, which Oliver said was a reference to the "privilege and mess that is our British government," the chef led a crowd of around 100 supporters in the rain.

Speaking at the event, Oliver praised supermarket Tesco for pledging to ban two-for-one deals on junk food from October this year, despite the government postponing the policy.

Jamie Oliver with an Eton Mess dessert opposite Number 10 Downing Street to protest the government’s U-turn on its anti-obesity strategy

When asked whether his campaign is out of touch at a time when families are increasingly struggling to put food on the table, he said: “This whole strategy was designed by the government and has been researched by the government proves that this particular mechanic (two-for-one deals on junk food) makes people spend more of their income and waste more.

"And actually if you look at what Tesco said today, they are going to continue on discounts (but on) healthier and sustainable (food).

"They’ve set the tone and I’m sure others will follow.

"We want to put child health first, the strategy was looking world class and now it doesn’t."

It’s our job to put it all back together again and make sure that we can build a better future for our kids.”

Oliver, a father of five, had earlier this week warned Boris Johnson that he had “36 hours” to correct his “mistake” or the protest would go ahead.

Addressing the prime minister in a video posted to Instagram, Mr Oliver said: “I would love to give you the opportunity if possible to realise that it’s OK to make a mistake. What I’d like to say to you is you’ve got 36 hours to go back on your U-turn on your own law that your government put in place.”

He added: “We are not the enemy. It’s actually your own people internally who are trying to get your job and backstab and stir.”

Ministers said they are deferring the ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals on foods high in fat, sugar and salt in England for 12 months so they can review the impact on family budgets in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.

The move has been welcomed by the industry and by some Tory MPs opposed to the state interfering in how people spend their money.

But former Conservative leader William Hague branded the weakening of anti-obesity strategy “morally reprehensible”.

“While some measures, such as rules on the positioning of unhealthy foods by retailers, will still go ahead in October, this U-turn adds to the long history of failed obesity strategies.” Lord Hague wrote in The Times on Tuesday.

The delay has also been criticised by former health minister Lord Bethell, who said failure to tackle the “obesity crisis” would simply add to the costs of the NHS.

Mr Johnson said the on Friday that the government was having to be “flexible” when it came to a delay in introducing a ban on buy-one-get-one-free promotions which are high in fat, sugar or salt.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Powys in Wales, the prime minister said: “Now, there are lots of things you’ve got to focus on, including diet, eating less, eating less is the most important thing, but there are some things at the moment where we think they make very little difference to obesity.

“And they can effect people’s weekly outgoings, people’s budgets, and at this particular time, if people can save on their food bills with some offers then I think we’ve just got to be flexible while continuing to tackle obesity.”

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