Mayor Sadiq Kahn also said that new takeaway restaurants will be required to meet new heathy food standards.
Once a major villain in the debate over public health, fast food chains have managed to move out of the spotlight a bit in recent years. With books like Fast Food Nation in 2001 and the movie Super Size Me in 2004, the troubles with these eateries was a popular topic, but in the past decade, trendier talking points have emerged: things like soda taxes, clean eating and food waste. It’s almost as if people hit fast food bashing fatigue. But that doesn’t mean the potential negative health repercussions of fast food restaurants simply disappeared – or that actions aren’t still being taken to help curb those effects.
Yesterday in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted he still had fast food on his mind when drafting his version of the London Plan, a development strategy for the United Kingdom’s largest city. In it, Kahn includes a rule banning “takeaways” – the British term for quick service restaurants – from within 400 meters, or about a quarter mile, of any existing or planned primary or secondary schools.
British youth have been raising eyebrow with their eating habits for years now. A 2016 BBC study found that one in six teens between the age of 16 and 20 ate fast food at least twice a day. Meanwhile, in London specifically, the Evening Standard reports that nearly 40 percent of all children are overweight or obese by the time they finish primary school, the highest rate for any city in England. Beyond the 400 meter ban, Kahn also said his plan, which will officially be revealed later this week, will require new takeaways to agree to meet minimum health standards – like grilling and baking foods instead of frying them and using less salt – before being allowed to open.
“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,” Kahn said according to the Standard. “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.”
The hope is that allowing fewer fast food joints around schools will have multiple benefits, not just giving kids fewer unhealthy options when popping out for lunch or a snack, but also keeping them from being bombarded with advertising while walking to and from home. Added Dr. Yvonne Doyle, London regional director at Public Health England, “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.”