Published: 05/02/2004, Volume II4, No. 5891 Page 9

Celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson has said the NHS would reap a long-term financial benefit if greater resources were provided to boost the quality of school meals.

He told Food Standards Agency debate, Defusing the Diet Timebomb, last week that obesity and associated illnesses cost the NHS so much that investment in school meals was essential.

Mr Worrall Thompson also argued that a lack of regulation on advertising children's food must have some effect on general levels of obesity. This view was backed by Medical Research Council head of nutrition and health research Dr Susan Jebb.

She called on the government to introduce legislation governing the advertising of high-fat foods to children and demanded a 'national obesity strategy'.

The debate also heard from Institute of Economic Affairs media fellow Richard D North, who argued for as little interference as possible in food regulation and food advertising. He said 'kids are pretty damn savvy'when it came to identifying advertising, and that the problem lay with parents who spent 'more time placating than disciplining' their children.