Pupils face takeaway ban in bid to fight childhood obesity

Restaurant owners in Salford hit out over proposals to restrict sale of hot food to children

Selling hot food to school children before 5pm could be banned in measures being considered by a town hall, in an effort to curb childhood obesity.

Any new takeaways, kebab houses, fish and chip shops and chains – such as McDonald’s and KFC – located close to schools would not be allowed to serve hot food over the counter during school hours under Salford council’s proposals.

The suggested regulations – open to public consultation until 5 July – are part of a nationwide trend of councils targeting growing rates of childhood obesity by bringing the fast food industry under tighter control. Several local authorities have already banned takeaways from opening close to schools, youth clubs and parks.

Waltham Forest, in east London, was the first to begin turning down applications from those who wanted to set up takeaways near schools – and since then scores of other councils have followed suit. Oldham Council also considered bringing in a £1,000 “fat tax” on hot food traders in 2011, before it was scrapped by Labour.

Andrew Cook, treasurer of the National Federation of Fish Friers, who owns fish and chip shops in Preston, said of Salford’s proposals: “This is penalising business unnecessarily. One of my shops is right next to a secondary school but the people who come in at lunchtime are all working folk, not school kids. Every morning I see children going to the newsagents next door and buying sweets, chocolates and pies – and that’s not healthy. But we’re an easy target.”

Professor David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Just keeping fast food restaurants shut won’t make any difference to the obesity problem because children can still go down to the sweet shop and get a bag of crisps. I’m pleased that people are thinking about how to tackle the obesity problem, but on its own this is too little.”

The ban would affect new outlets opened within 400m of a school.

Councillor Margaret Morris, assistant mayor for health at Salford council, said: “Takeaways create jobs and provide a service, but these ideas are to make sure that they are opening in the right places and not having a negative impact in our city. We don’t think they should be serving hot food over the counter before 5pm near schools, as children should be encouraged to eat healthily, so we have made this clear in our proposal.”

But Vas Felini, manager of Neil’s Fryery chip shop on Salford’s Langworthy Road, was unimpressed. He said: “I’m against it. What will they do next, ban newsagents who sell fizzy drinks and crisps? Fish and chips is traditional. Nothing is more healthy than fresh fish. And chips cooked the right way are nutritious. It should be down to kids’ parents what they eat.”

Data released by the National Child Measurement Programme in 2012 showed 35 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds in Salford were overweight or obese.

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