The Government's food tsar has quit with a blast at “insane” Tory inaction against obesity.

Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby said the Conservatives were refusing to impose restrictions on the junk food industry due to an obsession with “ultra-free-market ideology”.

"There is a concern that dealing with these issues could be seen to be ‘nanny state’ and plays badly in the ‘red wall’ constituencies,” he told the Sunday Times.

“That isn’t the case, actually, but there is concern that we need to be celebrating the great British diets of fish and chips and curry and beer and that junk food is somehow patriotic.”

Mr Dimbleby, a staunch advocate for wider free school meal provision, resigned his post at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs last week after five years in post.

It comes after he published the National Food Strategy in 2021 which called for free school meals for all Universal Credit households and recommended a 'snack tax' on foods high in sugar and salt to encourage manufacturers to make foods more healthy.

But Boris Johnson ditched most of the recommendations when his Government published a white paper on food the following year.

Plans to outlaw buy one get one free deals on unhealthy snacks have been delayed to October amid cost of living pressures.

A ban on junk food ads pre-9pm was due to come into force in January but this has also been kicked down the road.

Mr Dimbleby said: "This government is going backwards. After Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation [with Covid-19 in 2020], they were going to restrict advertising of junk food to children.

"They’re not going to do that. They’re just not tackling it."

He warned that the country was storing up huge problems for the NHS if it fails to confront obesity, which is left grappling with the impact of conditions caused by bad diet.

Mr Dimbleby said: “Winston Churchill talked about the greatest asset a nation can have is the health of its people. He understood that.

"Andy Haldane, the former chief economist of the Bank of England, recently said the biggest problem we have in terms of productivity in this country is illness, and that our workforce is not fit.

“Yet, somehow, this new version of the Tory party thinks that those aren’t things it should be getting involved in, and it’s just insane. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Labour's Kim Leadbeater said her party must pick up where the Government is failing.

The Batley and Spen MP, whose report into Labour's health and wellbeing strategy is published today, said: "Henry Dimbleby knows his stuff and I fully understand his frustration and his decision to resign.

"After 13 years of inaction from the Tories, only a Labour government will put health and wellbeing front and centre of everything we do."

The report, published by the Fabian Society, calls for nutritious school meals and healthy eating classes as part of a comprehensive health and wellbeing strategy.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We take tackling obesity seriously and we will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.”

2023-03-19T11:39:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd