CANNES: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver slammed his own bosses Monday in an extraordinary attack on their defence of junk food advertising on television.
The British cook, who has campaigned against sugary drinks and the “abysmal” standard of food in schools, also lambasted the Olympic authorities and FIFA, which runs the World Cup football championships, for cashing in at the cost of children’s health.
“We are getting to a scenario now where people are actually saying, ‘We can’t make killer drama without selling shit to kids,'” Oliver told top TV executives gathered in Cannes, France.
He said his own bosses at Channel 4 and ITV in Britain “don’t want to be legislated against for junk food advertising” because they fear for their budgets.
But “they have created a monster (in Oliver) because we get awards for doing programmes that are about social change and things that matter, but when it gets too close…”
Oliver, 43, who shot to fame with “The Naked Chef” series and cookbooks two decades ago, has forced British lawmakers to set standards on school meals and earlier this year slap a tax on the soft drinks industry.
‘Will you be pro-active?’
“What matters more than our children?” asked the chef, who launched the #AdEnough campaign earlier this year calling for TV junk food advertising to be restricted to after 9 pm.
“It is not me against them,” Oliver told delegates at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment industry market in the French Riviera resort.
“All I am is a little weather gauge, a little litmus test of what is going to happen to you in three years’ time, so the question therefore to the leaders is, ‘Are you going to be pro-active or reactive?’
“Are you going to do it because it is the right thing to do, or are you going to be told to do it by a government that cannot afford the healthcare service?” Oliver added in a swipe at Britain’s ruling Conservatives.
“Legislation on advertising probably will happen, probably this year,” he predicted, “and Coke is still going to be able to advertise, just it’s going to be Coke Zero.”
Oliver, whose shows are seen in more than 100 countries, said that his food campaigns cost his foundation more than £1 million pounds ($1.3 million, 1.1 million euros) a year.
“Very few people have done TV campaigns on the planet because it is bloody expensive,” he said.
“A lot of what I do is trying to prove that doing good is good business,” he said.
The chef said he “didn’t want to be on telly at the start. It was a bit of an inconvenience actually” and then it became a bit “frightening… like being in a boy band, with 1,000 people turning up to every book signing.”
But Oliver said he was most proud of forcing changes in the law to protect children. “It was shocking the shit kids were being fed. We had very robust legal standards for dog food but nothing for children. How very British.”