British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has come out swinging against pro athletes like David Beckham and former England striker Gary Lineker on the eve of the London Olympics for shilling junk food and sending out contradictory messages.
Published this week in the UK Times newspaper, the letter, signed by Oliver and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, lambastes celebrity athletes who promote sugar and fat-laden foods in exchange for lucrative endorsement deals.
"On the eve of the London Olympics we, a group with a vested interest in improving the health and wellbeing of young people, express our grave concern about this trend," it starts.
"We believe it is wrong for athletes to encourage the excessive consumption of such items, which are fuelling poor health and obesity. David Beckham is a great sportsman, yet he has endorsed Pepsi. What about the impact of Gary Lineker's association with Walkers crisps? Or the partnership between Mars and the FA?"
The strongly worded letter has served, once again, to fan the Olympic flames in the controversial relationship between major sponsors like McDonald's and Coca-Cola and the Games, an international sporting event which, among other things, is about the pursuit of athletic excellence.
In a finger-wagging dressing down, the letter reminds celebrity athletes that with their fame comes a big responsibility, particularly when it comes to young people who look up to them as role models. The letter likewise called out food companies for deliberately striking up endorsements with athletes to create what they call a "halo" effect over their otherwise unhealthy products.
"With one in three children in Britain overweight or obese by the age of nine, we have a public health crisis that requires urgent intervention," the letter continues. "We would ask athletes to be very conscious of the effect their endorsements may have on the future lives of youngsters."