Why Freedom Fries are only for grown-ups

Salford town hall has decided to ban takeaway stores selling to schoolchildren before 5pm. An outrageous intrusion into personal freedom? Or just good governance?

Share

I wish someone would stand between me and the chip shop door, barring my entry. Sadly, as an adult, I have to take responsibility for my own terrible dietary decisions. The schoolchildren of Salford are much luckier. The local council is stepping up to take responsibility for their health, and in an area where 35 per cent of children are overweight or obese before they leave primary school, it’s about time someone did. In an effort to steer kids towards healthier lunch options, they propose that fast-food outlets near schools be banned from selling hot food during school hours.

Legislatively speaking, the proposal is about as sophisticated as a battered saveloy. As local takeaway owners have been quick to point out, it means they’ll miss out on lunchtime trade from adult customers and it won’t stop children buying “lunch” from the local sweetshop instead.

Crucially, though, Salford’s proposal is not acting in isolation. It’s part of a cheering policy trend which has been championed by Jamie Oliver and picked up by local councils nationwide. These attempts to legislate for better childhood nutrition are all laudable, if, admittedly, of varying success, so why have they been thwarted at every turn? Most recently, Michael Gove courted Oliver’s fury by allowing academy schools to ignore national standards on school nutrition.

It’s easy to see how a 14-year-old might confuse eating chips for lunch with a daring expression of personal freedom. Fourteen-year-olds also commonly believe that wearing Topshop clothes is an expression of individuality and smoking Marlboro Lights is an expression of exquisite good taste. It’s harder to see how voting-age adults could fall for the same, but apparently they do. “Nanny state” intervention in the unhealthy habits of grown-ups will remain a red flag to controversy, but can’t we agree that children do need some nannying?

In fact, with flamboyant exceptions such as Julie Critchlow, the mum who famously sold burgers through school gates, the most active opponent of healthy eating is neither schoolchildren nor parents, but the fast-food industry itself. In New York, it was a beverage industry coalition that successfully sued to overturn the Mayor’s ban on super-size sugary drink sales. In Salford, it’s the treasurer of the National Federation of Fish Friers which is calling out the move for “penalising business unnecessarily”.

At some point post-2008, “what’s good for business is good for everyone” became economic orthodoxy. While no one wants the local chippie to go under, it’s time to admit that the one group whose health truly is synonymous with the nation’s future well-being isn’t business owners; it’s children.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?