Government needs to re-think approach to healthy eating & tackling obesity, say Chefs

2nd May 2012

Government needs to re-think its approach to Healthy Eating and Tackling Obesity, say Chefs

Euro-toques Chefs Nationwide visit schools for annual ‘Mini-Chefs’ School Food Workshops this week

30th April – 4th May, Nationwide

This week many chefs around the country are taking time out from busy kitchens and businesses to share a little of their passion of food and cooking in Ireland’s classrooms, part of an annual initiative by Euro-toques Ireland – Irish branch of the Europe-wide ‘European Community of Chefs’ – to encourage healthier eating habits in children. The idea behind the workshops is simply to get children interested in food; how it grows or is produced, where it comes from, how to prepare and eat it, and to encourage them to think and ask questions about what they eat. The events are taking place nationwide – mainly in primary schools – from Monday 30th of April to Friday 4th of May as part of Euro-toques ‘Mini-Chefs’ School Food Workshops week. Each workshop is headed up by a Euro-toques industry chef.

“These workshops are about sparking children’s interest in food and sharing our enthusiasm for it; growing it, cooking it, eating it”, says Ruth Hegarty, Secretary-General of Euro-toques Ireland.

“It is about empowering children to make better food choices and giving them the skills and knowledge they need to do this. Public health campaigns based on negative messages and guilt trips have proven to be ineffective, and the current government approach will be a dismal failure in dealing with our chronic obesity problem and bad eating habits. No one is giving our children the tools they need to improve the way they – and future generations – will eat. Healthier eating is closely linked to cooking ability. But we are now looking at a lost generation who cannot cook and will not pass any cooking skills on to their children”.

Ireland’s obesity rates continue to rise. Euro-toques believes that the way to tackle this is to teach people how to cook and therefore avoid processed, convenience foods. A 2003 paper from Harvard University* showed that the increase in obesity in the US was in direct proportion to the reduction in time spent cooking at home and, it follows, an increase in consumption of ‘mass-produced’ food. While several UK studies* have shown that hands-on cookery not only improves children’s knowledge of healthy ingredients but also encourages their consumption, concluding that cooking skills are the key to healthy eating.

Earlier this year Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly’s announced his intention to ask restaurants to include calorie counts on menus. Euro-toques believes this will not only be ineffective, but is actually a negative move. They believe that thinking of food in terms of calorie counts and nutritional tables instils a fear of food and encourages a negative relationship with it and they say that evidence shows that this is not an effective way of tackling obesity. According to a recently published report* people in France show particularly low understanding of nutritional labelling on food, yet they have the lowest obesity rates in Europe. Knowledge of nutritional labelling and average calorie content of food is highest in the US and yet 80% of their population is now classified as overweight.

“We should be teaching our children that good food is one of the greatest pleasures of life and encourage them to love food, not fear it”, says Hegarty.

The government are totally missing the point when they talk about calorie counts and nutritional labels. It is the very foods which carry all this information, which have destroyed our diets and our health. Unless people can cook, they have no chance of accessing better food. We need a radical change in attitude and approach towards food in this country and we are calling on the government to develop a national policy on Food Education, something which currently does not exist.

These workshops are a bit of fun with a very serious purpose. Knowing how to cook and to eat in a balanced way is an essential life skill – it can also become a lifelong passion”.

The workshops, which take place in selected schools around the country this week, are run by Euro-toques industry chefs, who will appear in the classroom in their chef’s whites and take the entire class on as their ‘commis’ for the session. Workshops are interactive and cover everything from growing food and seasonality to healthy lunchbox ideas and simple recipes. The fundamental part of all the workshops is Taste – teaching children how to taste and encouraging them to use all their senses when they eat and to be open to trying a variety of different foods.

‘Mini-Chefs’ at Volvo Ocean Race, Galway 30 June – 8 July

“While these workshops will only take place in certain schools around the country, we have a fantastic opportunity coming up for budding Young Chefs”, says Hegarty, “We will be offering a limited number of places for hands-on children’s workshops with a top chefs during the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race in Galway this Summer as part of an exciting line-up of events at the Food Pavilion”.

Euro-toques Ireland is part of the Food Pillar group for the Volvo Ocean Race finish in Galway from June 30th to July 8th this year. The Food Pavilion at Global Village will feature a Kitchen Theatre, Artisan market, Restaurant and Craft Beer & Seafood Bar. Each morning over the 9 days Euro-toques will offer hands-on ‘Mini-Chefs’ Children’s Food Workshops at the Kitchen Theatre, featuring top industry chefs.

Workshops are for children aged 10-12 years and there are just 10 places available each day.

To be in with a chance to don a chef’s hat & apron for a morning and learn from one of Ireland’s top chefs, all you have to do is:


Tell us in 50 words or less why you would like to take part

Include your NAME, AGE, and WHERE YOU ARE FROM, and a contact Telephone number & Parents name, and let us know what dates you are available to come to Galway (Between 30 June & 8 July inclusive)


You will be informed by June 6th if you have won a place.





Euro-toques, The European Community of Chefs, was established in 1986 in Brussels by some of the top chefs in the region. Their mission was, and still is, to protect European culinary heritage, its food traditions and the quality of food. The organisation works as a lobby group and as a network of like-minded chefs, who sign of to a charter of local and seasonal food sourcing. Central to Euro-toques is the objective of passing on food skills & knowledge to future generations, and Euro-toques Ireland is committed to food education activities both for chefs and consumers.

Euro-toques Ireland was also founded in 1986 by Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House, and now has almost 200 member cooks/chefs including Neven Maguire, Darina Allen, Kevin Dundon, Paul Flynn, Martin Shanahan, Derry Clarke and Ross Lewis.

Euro-toques Ireland’s Annual Food Awards, which honour and promote the food producers and farmers who make our work possible, will take place on MONDAY 28th OF MAY this year.

For more info visit Or follow us on Facebook (Euro-toques Ireland) & Twitter (@eurotoquesirl )


*Study links rise in obesity to reduction in time spent cooking.

Why have American Become More Obese? Journal of Economic PerspectivesVolume 17, Number 3Summer 2003Pages 93-118

*Studies link Cookings Skills With healthier eating, UK

Why Cooking Skills are the Key to Healthy Eating  

*The Nielsen Global Survey of Food Labelling Trends 2012

59% of consumers worldwide are struggling to understand the nutritional labels on food packaging

North America: 57% of consumers indicate they understand the information

Europe the average of good understanding of nutritional labels is 45%; ranging from Portugal with 60%, Ireland and Denmark with 53%, down to France with 31%.

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