Hey Jamie Oliver, go fuck yourself

I’ve never met Jamie Oliver. Prior to today, reading the transcript of his 2010 TED Talk on Medium, all I knew about him was that he was a celebrity chef.

I’ve seen a couple of his television programs before. He seemed to me like an affable guy who enjoys cooking. Well guess what? I’m an affable guy guy who enjoys cooking too.

In fact, I used to work with a team that prepared 100 organic, vegetarian meals a day for children. Three times a day, seven days a week, we prepared healthy and delicious food (including bread made from scratch). I was proud of my work but I never once considered myself in the business of saving lives:

My name’s Jamie Oliver. I’m 34 years old. I’m from Essex in England and for the last seven years I’ve worked fairly tirelessly to save lives in my own way.

Jamie’s TED talk goes on to talk about the leading causes of death in the United States, using this ancient infographic from 2006:


The diseases outlined in red are diet-related, as Jamie helpfully informs us:

Every single one of those in the red is a diet-related disease. Any doctor, any specialist will tell you that.

Fact: Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the United States, right now, here today. This is a global problem. It’s a catastrophe. It’s sweeping the world. England is right behind you, as usual.

Jamie’s numbers are certainly right. Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes truly are killing millions of people in the United States, Britain and many other countries.

The statistics are right. The conclusion is what’s wrong, because not one of those diseases is “sweeping the world” as a new phenomenon.

I’m no apologist for purveyors of junk food and industrialized chemical “food” pouring out of factories but clearly Jamie is drawing some very unscientific conclusions from the data.

Here’s more from Jamie:

Let’s start with the Main Street. Fast food has taken over the whole country; we know that. The big brands are some of the most important powers, powerful powers, in this country. Supermarkets as well. Big companies. Big companies.

I am American but I live in the Republic of Moldova. It is one of the poorest countries in all of Europe. And I am here to tell you that fast food has not taken over this country.

I live in the wealthiest sector (Buiucani) of the capital, Chisinau. Within a 2km radius of my apartment there are 7 open-air markets (selling fresh vegetables, dairy and fruit), over 20 grocery stores and just 1 fast-food place.

Big companies don’t dominate what people eat in this country. The majority of people in this nation live in the countryside, where they eat domestically-produced (and often grown at home) vegetables, fruits and foodstuffs.

Even here in the capital (which is also the largest city in the country), almost everyone does their shopping at the open-air markets, buying only fresh, unlabeled food that is grown here or in neighboring Ukraine. Processed foods are expensive, as are restaurants, and the majority of meals are eaten at home.

The people in Moldova today embody the concept of eating “largely local, largely fresh” food. Nothing could be healthier, right?

Let’s look at the causes of death in the Republic of Moldova. Statistics are for the year 2013 and come from here (link is in Romanian language). The Moldovan statistics are not categorized in exactly the same way as Jamie’s infographic but I’ve done my best to make them align as much as possible.

Cause # deaths
1 Heart Disease 22130
2 Stroke 5931
3 Cancer 5883
4 Digestive tract illnesses 3364
5 Trauma and poisoning 2839
6 Hepatitis and Cirrhosis 2607
7 Pulmonary diseases (COPD) 1711
8 Hypertension 1126
9 Suicide 576
10 Other 550
11 Infectious diseases 437
12 Accidents 396
13 Endocrine diseases 375
14 Diabetes 360
15 Nervous system diseases 291

So what does that tell us?

In a country like Moldova, where obesity is rare and where people are eating local, fresh food, the causes of death are nearly the same as in the United States.

Surely this must be a mistake, right?


From here we can see what the leading causes of death were in the United States since 1900:


As you can see, the prevalence of heart disease deaths in 1900 is almost identical to 2010. Mind you, in the year 1900, fast-food restaurants and large supermarkets didn’t exist, most people cooked at home and there were no big agrobusinesses shoving microwaved, frozen, processed foods down people’s throats.

McDonald’s didn’t even take off until 1955. So how is it possible that heart disease was still the number one killer of Americans in 1950? And how is it possible that heart disease is the number one killer (by a large margin) in Moldova, where the majority of people still eat fresh, local food cooked at home?

Jamie wants to teach people how to cook seasonal, fresh foods. I support that. I also support his initiatives on teaching children how to recognize (and eat) healthy foods. I wish him all the best in these endeavors.

But first, he has to recognize that he himself is part of the problem.

Back to his TED talk:

The big brands are some of the most important powers, powerful powers, in this country. Supermarkets as well. Big companies. Big companies. Thirty years ago, most of the food was largely local and largely fresh. Now it’s largely processed and full of all sorts of additives, extra ingredients, and you know the rest of the story.

You know who is introducing processed foods to Moldova? That’s right, Jamie Oliver.

Here’s a photo I took today in the largest supermarket in the capital:

Buy my shit so I can teach you not to eat it
Buy my shit so I can teach you not to eat it

87 Moldovan lei (approximately £3.70) may not seem much to a British shopper, but that’s an entire day’s wage for the average worker in this country, all for a tiny jar (190 grams) of processed food.

That pasta sauce isn’t being cooked by Jamie himself, bottled by friendly elves and then shipped to Moldova. It’s being brewed in gigantic industrial steel vats somewhere in the UK and shipped over here at great expense.

The shop where I found this overpriced bit of processed sauce is the poshest place in the country, where you can buy everything from pickled ginger (imported from Japan) to tamarinds (imported from Thailand) to exotic milk concoctions (imported from Russia) and soft drinks (imported from the Republic of Georgia).

I scoured the entire shop this morning and you know what? The only celebrity-endorsed products on the shelves are those sauces bearing Jamie Oliver’s grinning mug.

On one hand, he’s doing admirable work teaching children and adults how to cook healthy, locally-produced food. And yet on the other hand, he’s lending his name and face to heavily processed shit that’s being exported to Moldova, a country where everyone already cooks at home using fresh, local ingredients.

Maybe it’s time for Jamie Oliver to practice what he preaches and quit foisting his heavily processed “food” on an impoverished nation in order to teach young Brits and Americans how to eat like every Moldovan already does.

100 Comments Add yours

  1. Tieme says:

    Hmm, this is a different point of view on Jamie Oliver I have read so far. Well done, well written. I have to agree, but when you look at traditional meals (also in The Netherlands), there is a lot of grease in these “old fashioned” meals.

    Kind regards,


  2. mumtazsm says:

    I agree in SA most of population under the bread line. Then Jamie Oliver sauce comes out only the uber statement is made but for the price I’m sticking to making my own


  3. gelosoil says:

    I liked the guy ,and his initiative in USA where whe was confronted by apathy,preoccupied and paid by the food industry “locals”,he really was making a change there…..
    but then like all in the capitalistic world,the idea had to be sold to a big multinational or else…..
    Our problem ,our enemy,is the system itself.
    Even with the best intetnions you can not survive in this world without profit.and to make profit means someone else is losing……no value is born out of thin air,right?..
    So if you want to judge him for selling out,thats fine,but which one of you is not living in the capitallist world and dreams of succeeding without thinking the consequences to people all around the world?do you burn oil?..:)LOL….
    It is the Capitalism stupid as they say these communists who want to take our homes and wealth and share them with everyone else equally …:):)


  4. Thanks for the perspective! It was a funny, very smooth read as well.


  5. dagbhv says:

    The point is, his name getting a brand over the years and he tries to earn some money with it. I can not see any evil in this behaviour. Nobody is forced to buy this products, and when i look at the discount-price it seems that not to much do ;), ok i can not say its not right what you say. But hey, please no envy, i think he is bot a bad guy, an as you say, he is doing a lot of things very well…


  6. MikuMarmalade says:

    I am not new to eating healthy but I strive to keep trying to eat healthy. It’s a trial and error course for everyone. I am an American who is on a budget and food can get pricey. But that’s no excuse to quit. I like that you say he’s part of the problem but helping it as well. Your post here has inspired me to try at least not to be a hypocrite. That’s hard for me not to do sometimes as s human. Thanks for posting this~


  7. The Activist says:

    Celebrities are very rarely like the people they portray on television or in other forms of the media.It’s more a case of having a persona they put on in public. I’m no celebrity but I used to work in my own shop serving people day in day out and you teach yourself what to let out and what not to. Take Ozzy Osbourne you don’t believe he’s the devils son yet his public persona portrays that he is. All the Jamie Olivier persona is is a tool to make money just like Ozzys :)


  8. Very well put! I support Jamie’s work and the spirit behind his food revolution. But you just helped me to put things in perspective


  9. I’m confused…. So if big supermarkets (and processed food) didn’t exist and people grew their own stuff in the 1900’s why is the cause of death still the same? And then what has processed food got to do with it?


  10. Ι won’t mention the statistics and his speach just because I haven’t done my research yet. But I remember my surprise when I saw those jars with his face on the self of the supermarket here in Greece. What?He is telling people to prepare everything by their selves!!!It is like he is telling us that he doesn’t believe in his products . I have to admit though that I’ve tried his pesto sauce and was OK,not perfect. Plus,his 15 and 30 min. Meal recipes are life saviours for busy moms.. :) Nice post!Well done!


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