The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a ban on new hot food takeaways opening within 400 metres of schools. It is one of a series of moves that forms part of his draft London Food Strategy to tackle childhood obesity.
Khan has been vocal in the past about setting a radius around schools for new planning submissions for hot takeaways and there is research to suggest that takeaways are contributing to childhood obesity.
Other proposals in the plan include a ban on junk food advertising across the entire Transport for London network, including the London Underground, London Overground and the capital’s buses and bus shelters.
This comes as celebrities including Jamie Oliver have highlighted the issue with the #ADEnough campaign to ban junk food advertising on television before 9pm.
Research by the National Centre for Social Research and Cancer Research UK has shown that advertising of unhealthy foods – particularly when aimed at children – creates extra pressure on children and families when it comes to choosing what to eat and drink.
There is evidence to show that a ban on junk food advertising would work. Amsterdam brought in a ban on adverts for unhealthy food on its transport network at the start of this year – as part of a package of measures in the city which has seen child obesity fall by 12% overall and by 18% among the most deprived children since 2012.
A London-specific plan has also been created following research that found that London has one of the highest child overweight and obesity rates in Europe, with almost 40% of children aged 10 and 11 overweight or obese. Children from poorer areas are also disproportionately affected, with young people in Barking and Dagenham almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from Richmond, according to the National Child Measurement Programme.
“Child obesity in London is a ticking timebomb and I am determined to act,” said Khan. “If we don’t take bold steps against it we are not doing right by our young people as well as placing a huge strain on our already pressurised health service in years to come.
“It can’t be right that in a city as prosperous as London that where you live and the income you have can have a massive impact on whether you have access to healthy, nutritious food and your exposure to junk food advertising.
“The Government needs to step up and join this fight against child obesity, so we can achieve real progress – not just in London, but across the entire country.”
Khan recently appointed the chair and vice-chair of London’s first Child Obesity Taskforce, which will meet for the first time later this year and other proposals in the London Food Strategy – created by the London Food Board – include funding the development of plans by London boroughs to make better food more widely available across the capital.