Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has blasted unhealthy eating habits for the dramatic rise in obesity across the Middle East and in other emerging economies.
The UK restaurateur, who has championed of healthy diets among school children, criticised the developing Middle East, India and South America for copying the West’s culture of fast food and consumerism.
"There seems to be a trend with developing countries wanting to follow in the footsteps of the western world, and copy their patterns of fast food and consumerism," Oliver told the UN-backed One Young World conference in Switzerland.
“Pre-packed convenience food is seen as a symbol of being 'modern' in developing countries, but the problems it causes are long-term, and costly."
Oliver, who opened an outpost of his ‘Jamie’s Italian’ restaurant chain in Dubai last year, said diet-related medical problems could create “an absolute catastrophe” over the next three decades if obesity rates continue to rise.
"Diet-related diseases are two of the top five causes of premature death for people under 60 years old,” he said, calling for a “global movement to make obesity a human rights issue.”
The Gulf states have some of the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the world. The UAE ranks only behind the Pacific island of Nauru for diabetes incidence, and is closely followed by Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
A host of factors have been blamed for the bulge in waistlines, including rising urban incomes, the adoption of a western, fast-food led diet and a decline in physical exercise.
A report by Philips Healthcare in January found 70 percent of UAE residents were classed as overweight or obese. Two thirds of the 750 people surveyed, however, believed themselves to be leaner than they were.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in 10 of the world’s population is obese, with rates of obesity more than doubling since 1980.