Mayor cracks down on opening of new hot-food takeaways around schools

Monday 27 November 2017 

  • London Plan to say no new takeaways to open within 400m of schools
  • New health standard to boost baked or grilled food rather than fried
  • Action on ‘ticking timebomb’ of childhood obesity

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is helping to tackle childhood obesity by cracking down on new hot food takeaways near schools.

For the first time, the draft London Plan, due to be published by the Mayor this week, contains detailed policy guidance on the Mayor’s manifesto commitment to put restrictions in place around new fast-food outlets.

The draft London Plan – the capital’s overall planning strategy – says that new takeaways should not be permitted within 400 metres walking distance of an existing or proposed primary or secondary school. A quarter of the UK’s takeaways are located within a five minute walk of a school.

Where new takeaways are granted planning permission, they will be required to sign up to the Healthier Catering Commitment, a scheme supported by the Mayor and promoted by local authorities to help caterers and food businesses make simple, healthy improvements to their food such as grilling or baking instead of frying and adding less salt.

Currently, almost 40 percent of children in London are overweight or obese when they finish primary school, the highest proportion in England. Through his Health Inequality Strategy, the Mayor is working towards a reduction in childhood obesity rates.

Overweight or obese children are more likely to miss school due to illness and are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes as adults. Health experts support the Mayor’s recommendation to restrict the proliferation of takeaway shops, particularly around schools, in order to help create a healthier food environment.

There are currently more than 8,000 fast-food outlets in London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Takeaway restaurants are a vibrant part of London life, but it’s important that they are not encouraging our children to make poor food choices.”

“I am working hard to create a healthier London and this must start with the food that our children eat. As promised in my manifesto, I am using all of my powers through my new London Plan to prevent new takeaways from being built just down the road from schools as part of a package of measures to tackle the ticking time bomb of childhood obesity and help us all lead healthier lives.”

A typical fast-food meal contains nearly 60 per cent of recommended daily calories, half of salt and saturated fat and no portions of fruit or vegetables. There is strong evidence that regular consumption of hot food takeaways is associated with weight gain.

The Mayor’s Healthy Schools London programme is already supporting almost 2,000 schools to promote healthy eating and supporting them to provide pupils with nutritious and balanced meals. Tackling childhood obesity is a core focus of his health inequalities strategy, calling on all parts of London – businesses, the NHS and London’s boroughs– to help make London the world’s healthiest city for children to grow up in.

Rosie Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board, said: “It’s great to see changes being introduced to how takeaways operate. There are some areas of the capital with up to 40 fast food outlets within half a mile of schools, enticing children by reducing costs at the same time as they are leaving school. By encouraging existing takeaways to switch to healthier options and cracking down on new takeaways near schools, we can start to tackle the damage being done to our children’s health.”

Dr Yvonne Doyle, London regional director at Public Health England, said: “Our high streets are increasingly saturated with takeaways and our school children consume too much unhealthy food and drink on the high streets near schools. This plan will encourage a healthier food environment around our schools so that junk food is no longer the option for children nearest the school gates.”

Karen Jaeggi, Headteacher at Worcesters Primary School in LB Enfield, said: “At Worcesters we consistently promote healthy lifestyles, as this is key to improving all aspects of pupils learning. We know that if pupils eat healthy, balanced food they are more focused on their learning, but of course this can be a challenge if they are walking past cheap and appealing fast food outlets on their way to and from school. Personal health through understanding what you eat and being physically active is an essential element to tackling childhood obesity.”

Clea Harris, Chair of the London Healthier Catering Commitment Group, a London partnership project supported and jointly coordinated by Association of London Environmental Health Managers, said: “It is important that school children should be able to access healthier food options in the food businesses that surround their schools.  The introduction of the Healthier Catering Commitment in these premises will ensure that a healthier selection of food and drink is available so that young people can make a choice which reflects current healthy eating messages.”

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