There was no comms or PR to promote the long-awaited childhood obesity plan, according to the celebrity chef.
After repeated delays, the document was finally released last August, during Parliamentary recess. It was a scaled-down version of one previously prepared for David Cameron, which had included recommendations that supermarkets be stopped from price-cutting promotions for junk food, and for restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods to children. These measures were absent from the plan released just months after Cameron left office.
There was no announcement by Prime Minister Theresa May, who was on holiday at the time, or even health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who only weeks earlier had stated: "Childhood obesity is a big priority for the government."
Oliver, who has spent years campaigning for better nutritional standards, said: "It was released at the same time the A-level results came out, with no marketing, no comms, no PR."
In remarks made in an interview with the Sunday Times, he added: "In code, that means, ‘We don’t give a f***’. It was unbelievable. Blatant."
Echoing the celebrity chef’s criticisms, Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told PRWeek: "Mr Oliver, who knows a thing or two about PR and getting a message across, is absolutely right in his criticism of Mrs May and her utter disregard in tackling childhood obesity."
But government comms professionals have hit back at the criticisms of the way the launch was handled, pointing out that a press release was issued at the time.
A junior health minister was quoted in the one press release that was issued - which was placed on a media blog for journalists, rather than on the Department of Health’s homepage - and there was no news story placed online.
However, government officials insist that "standard announcement protocol" was followed and a DoH spokesperson dismissed Oliver’s criticisms as "completely unfounded".
They claimed: "The launch was covered extensively by media" and added: "We don’t put press releases on gov.uk, we put them on our blog - this is standard practice. News stories are often put on gov.uk if we don’t send out a usual press release, whereas we briefed this press release straight out to national media instead."
However, Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, told PRWeek: "The timing of the news story released to journalists (which had no embargo) was intentionally late in the day to limit media pick up and attention."
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