Jamie Oliver brings obesity food fight Down Under

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British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is bringing his battle against obesity to Australia, setting up his "Ministry of Food" in the Queensland town of Ipswich, he announced Monday.

Oliver said that diet-related disease was the biggest killer in the country, where two-thirds of men and half of women are estimated to be overweight or obese, according to a Sydney University study.

"Australia for me is a country full of open-minded cooking, incredible produce, some of the best chefs in the world," Oliver said in a video message.

"And yet, even though there are cooking shows all over TV, there is this massive health epidemic related to food."

Ipswich, close to the east coast city of Brisbane, will host a food cooking centre which will provide classes and demonstrations designed to give residents tips on "how to make beautiful, tasty quick meals", Oliver said.

The 'Naked Chef', known for his passion for fresh and simple food, will also conduct an online cooking class on December 2 but there are so far no plans for a reality television series based in Australia.

The chef, who has attempted to bring healthy eating habits to schools in Britain and the United States, said the programme was designed to mimic how mums and dads used to teach their children how to cook.

"Ipswich definitely needs our help," he said. "I can't wait to get there."

Town mayor Paul Pisasale said becoming involved was about leading by example.

"We're not the fattest community in Queensland," he told the ABC.

"We've got a situation where we've got a community that likes to lead by example, to show the way, to show that we're prepared to put some actions into our community and let the community know how important health is."

The Queensland government has committed 2.5 million US dollars over four years to support the programme, which will include an outreach truck to bring the message to remote communities, Premier Anna Bligh said.

"Let's be frank, obesity is killing us," she told reporters. "This is about educating young Queenslanders about how to prepare nutritious meals and help them lead long, healthy lives."

© 2010 AFP

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