Jamie Oliver picks a fight with David Beckham over his junk food adverts

Gary Lineker also targeted by chef in campaign for children to eat healthily

The celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has criticised sporting heroes like David Beckham for promoting junk food to children.

Beckham and Gary Lineker are highlighted for criticism in an open letter signed by the celebrity chef and health professionals and teachers.

"On the eve of the London Olympics we, a group with a vested interest in improving the health and well-being of young people, express our grave concern about this trend," the letter published today in The Times newspaper says.

"We believe it is wrong for athletes to encourage the excessive consumption of such items, which are fuelling poor health and obesity. David Beckham is a great sportsman, yet he has endorsed Pepsi. What about the impact of Gary Lineker's association with Walkers crisps? Or the partnership between Mars and the FA?"

The letter, which is also signed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) president, Dr Hilary Cass, accuses food companies of triggering a "halo effect" around unhealthy foods by associating them with sport. "With one in three children in Britain overweight or obese by the age of nine, we have a public-health crisis that requires urgent intervention. We would ask athletes to be very conscious of the effect their endorsements may have on the future lives of youngsters. Obesity does not just carry physical consequences but serious social and emotional ones as well."

Other signatories to the letter are the RCPCH past president Terence Stephenson, the National Association of Head Teachers president Steve Iredale, Children's Food Campaign director Charlie Powell and London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra. Dr Malhotra has called for a total ban on junk food sponsorship of the Olympics. He said: "It is totally perverse that some of the main sponsors of the greatest sporting spectacle in the world are McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

"One vital step in reducing the consumption of obesogenic products is to end the association of sporting role models with junk food. The very lucrative financial gain for these athletes is sadly at the expense of our children's health and we should not allow this to continue."

Dr Cass said: "We shouldn't underestimate the fascination that many children and young people have with celebrities, whether that's teenage girls skipping meals to look like the latest airbrushed magazine model or boys wanting the same brand boot as their footballing idol.

"Sporting role models in particular can send a powerful message to children when it comes to their health and fitness. Instead of glamorising junk food, they should be using their influence to inspire children and young people to become tomorrow's top athletes by eating well and leading active lifestyles.

"With celebrity status comes responsibility. So rather than helping to fuel this nation's growing obesity crisis, these stars can play a key role in helping stem it."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor