Past-BDA Honorary Chair Mary Turner CBE has passed away after a short illness

Past-BDA Honorary Chair Mary Turner CBE has passed away after a short illness

20 July 2017

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is sad to hear that today previous BDA Honorary Chair Mary Turner CBE has passed away after a short illness. Mary has been a trade union activist for over six decades, and was a much loved and hugely respected member of the GMB Union. 

Born in Tipperary, Mary moved to the North of England as a child before finally settling in Kilburn, London. As a trade unionist, Mary was a true leader, never taking no for an answer. When she returned to work part-time in 1970 as a dinner lady in Brent, Mary quickly set about organising the female workers who were poorly paid, untrained and treated badly. During this time, Mary also developed a passion that she would campaign on for decades to come – free school meals. Having seen hungry children and the stigma of those who had to queue separately for free school meals, Mary was heavily involved in ensuring free school meals for kids became Labour party policy. 

From feeding 600 young marchers during the people's March for Jobs in the 1980s, to fighting the National Front and leading, recruiting and supporting thousands of low paid workers, Mary has a long list of achievements. In recognition of her incredible work, Mary was elected to GMB’s executive where upon her election, she served as the only woman out of 40 members. In 1997 Mary was elected as President of GMB a position she has been re-elected into every year since. She has served on the Labour Party National Executive Committee, chairing the Party in 2004. In 2010, Mary was awarded an MBE, which was followed by a CBE in 2017. 

Mary was appointed as BDA Honorary President in 2010, until 2015. Mary was the first BDA Honorary President with a national political profile and was appointed to help recognise the importance of our trade union activities and function. Her passion for sound common sense in school catering was legendary and she brought this passion to all our work as she was a strong advocate for the BDA and the profession within the trade union movement and at a political level. Despite her significant roles within the GMB and the Labour Party, Mary always had time to attend our events and be seen to support our cause. She recognised the value of the profession and our role within the health sector and the trade union movement. Mary was one of the most influential women of her generation and a true friend to the BDA.

Mary had a great sense of humour but business always came first.  She knew exactly how to win an argument and better still how to win support when she needed it – she never gave up the fight until she got what she wanted. Mary will be very sadly missed by everyone that knew her.

Andy Burman, Chief Executive Officer of the BDA, said, “Mary represented a passion and drive that was hugely impressive and infectious. No issue was too small and she was always reliable in her determination to do the best for the BDA. I feel privileged to have known her and worked with her, if only for a short period of time.”

Siân O’Shea, Registered Dietitian, and BDA Chair said, “I was very privileged to have known Mary when she was President of the BDA. A remarkable and gifted lady, she was an inspiration to us all. What will remain in my memory is her vivacious sense of humour and her humility in acknowledging her achievements. She loved every aspect of her career and always strived to do more.”

Mary Turner


Notes to the editor:

  • The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9000 members.
  • Visit the BDA website at
  • Find out more about Mary Turner at:
  • Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.


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