I'll find a minister for healthy eating, says Jamie Oliver

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Indy Politics

Britain needs a dedicated minister for food to prevent an obesity "horror show" from enveloping the country, Jamie Oliver has warned MPs.

While he would be "touched" to be offered the job, the celebrity chef said, he would not take it but would act as a headhunter for the Government.

The star of the hit television shows Jamie's School Dinners and Ministry of Food shared a bleak view of Britain's eating habits during his 90-minute grilling by the Commons Health Select Committee, describing the rise in obesity as a "bloody emergency".

He said that a new food minister would need a budget of about £6.5bn, 10 times the £650m spread over six years that was handed to the chef's school dinners campaign.

"I want someone to be accountable," he said. "I would like to see someone from the private sector with real savvy, who could inspire and motivate local authorities. I think I'm best off on the outside – so I wouldn't take the job. But I would be happy to find someone."

The obesity problem in Britain could be fixed if action was taken now. "The health crisis that we are in and what we choose to do in the next 10 years is so incredibly profound. There is a new poverty that I have never seen before. This isn't about fresh trainers or mobile phones or Sky dishes or plasma TV screens – they've got all that. It is a poverty of being able to nourish their family, in any class."

Oliver warned that the recession could show up the country's lack of cooking skills, as many people no longer had the culinary know-how to help them eat well for less.

His project to bring healthy meals to schools was on track but the training of dinner ladies was a "bloody disgrace". Only about 5,000 of 125,000 dinner ladies had been trained.

Other ideas on his list were plans to ask supermarkets to "adopt" a school by providing ingredients for classes, and copying Californian legislation that capped the number of fast-food restaurants in vulnerable areas.

He also attacked the EU for introducing a confusing labelling system. "I wish it never existed," he told the MPs. "I've got nothing nice to say about the EU at all."