LONDON - Aboard an open-top London bus circling Britain's parliament, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is educating children about healthy eating, and revealing plans to take his campaign to the home of the gourmets.
"The most dangerous thing for our communities is when children don't know what a potato is, or a tomato, and that exists all over Europe," he explained on board the red battle bus.
His audience of schoolchildren, some dressed as onions and bananas, lapped up the message and vocally backed the chef's petition calling on all G20 countries to make food education compulsory, chanting "sign it, share it!" The petition, signed by over 1.2 million people from around the world, is part of "Food Revolution Day", set up by Oliver four years ago to tackle the growing problem of diet-related diseases.
"It's a global day of action," he said. "It's about the broken food system, about farming and about junk food, about how we are killing our children. I'm just a messenger." The 39-year-old has enlisted the help of celebrity pals including sprinter Usain Bolt and singers Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran in pushing "to put compulsory food education on the school curriculum." He has already successfully lobbied to improve the standard of Britain's school meals and now has his sights set on France, despite its rich culinary history.
"France is an example for the rest of the world but there are also some angry patterns and statistics that are not good, France should also be worried," warned Oliver, star of the TV series "Naked Chef".
"It's not law that every child is taught about food, where it comes from and how it affects their body, and that is completely responsible.
"France has thousands of years of expertise in food, but the power of junk food and big fooding is big enough to fight that culture," he added.
Oliver slammed cereal manufacturers, saying they had "brainwashed us that they are great and we know it's all rubbish.
"The bad people in the food industry will even brainwash French people," the chef told AFP.
Oliver advocated teaching children "how to put seed in the ground, grow something, pick it, cook it and eat it in a group.
"That's my wish today: that France gets behind a funny little English boy on a red double decker bus with a lot of English kids," Oliver said.
Britain, he added, was in "a lot of trouble", but could learn from France's introduction of a tax on sugary drinks.
"I would like to come to France and talk to your ministers about that sugar tax, why they did it and where the money goes," he said.
More than 42 million children worldwide under the age of five are overweight or obese, according to World Health Authority (WHO) statistics.