CELEBRITY chef Nick Nairn has blasted a BBC kids TV show for promoting an “irresponsible” junk food diet.
The out-spoken chef, who recently campaigned on behalf of school dinner blogger Martha Payne, slated Cbeebies show Woolly & Tig, saying it created a “subliminal message” that eating unhealthy food was acceptable.
The TV show, by the Scottish team behind Balamory, features a three-year-old girl that lives on a diet of fish fingers with an occasional dollop of ketchup, but without a vegetable, grain or pulse in sight.
Taggart actor Colin McCredie stars with his real-life daughter Betsy in the show, which is aimed at the under-fives.
The 30-episode series follows Tig and her toy spider ‘Woolly’, as she deals with scary new experiences, from a first day at nursery to meeting a man sporting a beard.
But Scottish chef Nairn has branded the programme makers “irresponsible” after the lead character’s preference for junk means she eats fish fingers in many episodes of the show’s 30-part series.
Nairn, who has two children of his own, said he would be concerned about letting his children watch the popular TV show.
The 53-year-old said: “It gives me cause for concern because the programme is being shown to children who are at an impressionable age when it comes to eating habits and this programme is creating a subliminal message that unhealthy foods are OK to eat.
“I actually think it is a wasted opportunity for the makers of the programme, who could easily have put a healthy and balanced meal on the plate for the girl to eat.
“I have no idea what the programme makers were thinking.
“As a public service broadcaster I think that the BBC has a responsibility to encourage good healthy eating practises.
“Fish fingers can be OK as part of a healthy and balanced diet, but they have to be accompanied by the right amount of carbohydrates and vegetables.
“I have worked with my own children from a young age to ensure they have a healthy diet and it would worry me if they were younger and watched the programme.”
Nairn, who became the youngest Scottish chef to win a Michelin star in the early 1990s, added: “The Government works really hard to promote healthy eating with children, and the food that appears on this programme does concern me. I think that the programme makers should have put more consideration into these issues.
“It certainly doesn’t help parents who are trying to help their kids to have a healthy diet.
“Just put some green stuff on the plate,” he added.
Debbie Ballantyne, Development Officer at North Glasgow Community Food Initiative, a community health project which aims to improve awareness of healthy eating in Glasgow, said it was “irresponsible” of the BBC.
She said: “It is irresponsible of the BBC as a lot of children will be watching it, all the time. I definitely think there should be vegetables offered on the plate at the same time as the fish fingers.
“We actually do a lot of work with under-fives to encourage them to grow and eat vegetables. Even if the girl was given a simple vegetable like carrots or peas, not every child has heard of sweet potatoes, but having a healthy vegetable alongside the fish fingers would certainly be welcome.”
Margaret Parkinson, (29), from Edinburgh, has a son Jamie, (6), and daughter Jennifer, (2). She feels Woolly and Tig does not present a healthy eating message for youngsters.
She said: “Some children are fussy with what they eat, but I think it is always important to offer a child healthy food at mealtimes. I think it is strange that Woolly & Tig would just give the girl fish fingers to eat as this does not properly represent a balanced lunch or dinner.
“My son has autism and there are certain foods that he will not eat. He does not like to eat anything that has touched other foodstuff, but I still make sure I offer him a bowl of peas, or another vegetable alongside the rest of his meal.”
Helen Doherty, Producer at Tattie Moon, the company behind Woolly and Tig, said she would discuss the diet habits of Tig before producing the next series of the show.
She said: “The show is not about what the character eats, it is about how she deals with her anxieties and feelings, but it is an interesting point that has been raised.
“It is good feedback to have and I will certainly discuss it with our writer, as we are currently developing a second, 15-episode, series of the show.”
Brian Jameson, creator of Balamory and Woolly & Tig added: “I welcome the comments made by Mr Nairn but I would certainly challenge him on them. For one thing, at least she doesn’t eat foie gras – like Nick Nairn sells in his restaurants.
“This is a programme that examines children’s feelings and not their eating habits. Ok fish fingers are her favourite food, but she is a little girl of three-years-old and we have to be realistic. In one episode she is away from her mum, and in that situation you wouldn’t give a child something they were not used to eating.
“We do understand about promoting a healthy lifestyle and in one episode she is in a supermarket buying fresh food and vegetables. She never eats cakes or anything like that.
“That said, we are working on the second series at the moment, and we will make sure that we pile on the greens.”