Opinion: Chef Jamie Oliver: Does his ‘Food Revolution’ concept infringe on personal freedom?

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The second season of British chef Jamie Oliver’s healthy-eating program for ABC debuted Tuesday night to dismal ratings and some backlash. It’s not that people don’t appreciate Oliver’s efforts to improve school lunches and combat childhood obesity -– they just don’t like his heavy-handed approach. Here’s Chez Pazienza’s take on the Huffington Post:

[I] get the argument that little good comes from giving kids milk that pumps them full of sugar and empty calories, but is an outright ban on it really the way to go? What about the child who just likes chocolate milk and can actually handle drinking a carton of it without ballooning into a mocha-colored Violet Beauregarde? At what point do we draw the line? At what point do we decide to stop protecting some at the expense of the legitimate desires of others? I’m all for healthier options at America’s schools; that and food education are musts at this point in our evolution as a nation. But there’s a difference between an option and a mandate. And while it makes sense for Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolutionaries to fire all guns at once with the understanding that it may be what’s required to effect even a small amount of necessary change, there’s still something decidedly draconian about pushing to reflexively relieve us of our freedom of choice when it comes to what we eat.

A similar debate is taking place around a well-intentioned ‘fat tax’ proposed in Arizona, under which annual fees would be raised specifically for those Medicaid patients who don’t take steps to improve their health. Not only might such a plan inspire obese people to lose weight, it would also mean that health insurance premiums don’t go up for everyone. That’s not how our readers perceive it, though. The heated conversation happening on our discussion board raises a myriad of hot-topic concerns, including personal freedom, privacy and genetics.

If Oliver were to join the discussion, he’d likely say that, like his television program, the ‘fat tax’ is a noble effort to help. In a February interview with columnist Patt Morrison, he said he didn’t see his show as a job, but rather as a responsibility:


It’s not about being a food Nazi. The madness of health in America is just the amount of [bad] additives -- frankly, things that are banned in Europe. There’s nothing wrong with a burger, but if you add up all the ingredients, all the additives of a cheap dodgy burger? It’s about goodness and whole foods and nutrients versus the lowest form of stuff.


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-- Alexandra Le Tellier