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‘Naked Chef’ Jamie joins Canadian junk feud, spices up anti-marketing to kids campaign

The celebrity foodie brought his fame to back a high-profile push for the feds to ban food and drink ads to under-16s.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is shown during an interview in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dane Coote

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is shown during an interview in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.

Donning a Canadian tuxedo — denim jacket and jeans — British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver stirred the pot of a controversial Canadian campaign that’s pitted nanny state fears against opponents of the junk food industry.

Joining the “Naked Chef” author Thursday at an event hosted by a consortium of some of Canada’s biggest health advocacy organizations — including the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Diabetes Association — was a Victoria, B.C. physician whom Metro profiled in an August cover story about a “junk feud” brewing over banning marketing food and drink to children.

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Dr. Tom Warshowski, with the Childhood Obesity Foundation, spoke alongside the 41-year-old baby-faced foodie about the need to change Canadians’ “unhealthy habits.”

“Kids are not born on earth to just eat nuggets,” Oliver proclaimed at the Toronto event, which was live-streamed online. “It’s not genetic.

“We created this: it’s called marketing, it’s called comfort, it’s called familiarity. Brands are comfortable (and) the power of brands has really developed over the last 40 years. This has promised growing profits generally pushing salt, fat (and) sugar.”

In August, Metro reported that Warshowski’s organization was spearheading a national campaign — the 30-plus member Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition — that’s pitted health advocates against Big Food, hoping to get Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to fulfil a promise to introduce “new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, similar to those now in place in Quebec.”

“Since becoming a doctor about 30 years ago, I’ve seen tremendous changes — to the bad — in terms of the health of Canadian children,” Warshowski said following Oliver’s speech. He said that in that time, childhood obesity had more than doubled, rising from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. “This isn’t just about obesity or overweight, it’s about unhealthy lifestyles.

“All the diseases we talk about that are associated with overweight and obesity

are also associated with the consumption of unhealthy foods — those high sugar, salt and fat foots. We’ve got a one-way street because of the habits we’re teaching our children, and marketing plays a big part of that.”

Oliver said he’s watching Canada’s federal government closely, and said Canadians are likely unaware of the example the country would set globally by adopting a ban on marketing food to children.

“From a global point of view … what Mr. Trudeau does in the next six months is important,” Oliver said. “It sets the tone for the planet.”

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