Anger as health chief Miles Briggs appears at fast food restaurant launch

Miles Briggs joins Cameron Fraser and staff to cut the ribbon at a refurbished McDonald's/
Miles Briggs joins Cameron Fraser and staff to cut the ribbon at a refurbished McDonald's/
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SHADOW health secretary Mile Briggs has come in for a grilling – after being guest of honour at the reopening of a new fast food restaurant.

Obesity campaigners slammed a smiling Mr Briggs for joining staff in posing for photos at the launch of a refurbished McDonald’s in Corstorphine.

But the Tory health chief hit back saying he was there to support the multinational’s “healthier meal options” and job creation.

National Obesity Forum chair, Tam Fry, raged: “Mr Briggs is out of order.

“When the Scottish government is set to publish a tough strategy to deal with child obesity he should not be ‘opening’ what is basically a junk food restaurant but supporting Holyrood’s efforts.

“The message that such an appearance sends out is quite unhelpful. If he’s playing party politics, he’s a disgrace.”

Mr Briggs helped reopen the drive-through at Corstorphine Retail Park after it was closed for a “digital transformation” with self-order kiosks and table top tablets.

The outlet is managed by McDonald’s rising star Cameron Fraser, 24, who joined the chain when he was just 17.

Mr Briggs was photographed cutting the ribbon on the new store with Cameron and colleagues.

Only in September, Mr Briggs briefed on the rising bill to the NHS caused by the obesity crisis.

He quoted figures revealing £93.4 million was spent prescribing drugs to treat diabetes in 2016/17, an increase of £4.5m on the previous year.

Mr Briggs said at the time: “People can develop diabetes for a number of reasons, and it would be wrong to suggest obesity lies at the root of every case.

“Nonetheless, diabetes is a well-known consequence of obesity, and if more people are seeking treatment for it, it would suggest that problem is increasing.

“This is fast becoming one of Scotland’s major public health crises.”

Mr Briggs called on the Scottish Government to do more and questioned its decision, in the face of rising obesity levels, to scrap health checks for all men and women when they reach the age of 40.

Fast food giant McDonald’s has long been blamed for contributing to the UK’s obesity problem, particularly in children.

In 2003, the firm along with others from the sector gave evidence at a Westminster health committee hearing on the issue.

And in January came news that “calorie caps” are planned in a bid to create healthier lifestyles – a Big Mac, medium fries and a drink is reputedly more than 1,000 calories.

The chain has talked up its healthier credentials of late, with fruit and vegetables on the menu and signing up to the UK government’s Responsibility Deal.

Mr Briggs said: “I was contacted by McDonald’s about initiatives that they are taking to provide healthier meal options and reduce the calories that they have in their meals.

“The owner of the McDonald’s is a local businessman who provides employment across Lothian.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com