Ministers have been urged to ban fast food outlets from opening within 400 yards of UK schools. A cruel measure or a positive step in the fight against child obesity?
It’s the end of a long school day. You wrote a decent essay in English. You hammered a maths test without using your phone. You had an arm-wrestle at break with Bruce, ‘the strongest kid in the class’, and won. You hung out with your pals. You had a great time.
Now, though, it’s 3:30pm and the last bell has sounded. Your focus shifts from Bruce. Bruce and his throbbing, red face that shook in bitter and shameful defeat earlier that day. That’s done now. Instead, you move onto the more pressing issue of what to eat on the bus home.
You need a champion’s meal. One that’s tasty. Filling. As sweet and as satisfying as an unexpected victory. You need that deep-fried, mouthwatering hit of salty, crispy goodness. You need fried chicken.
But, girls and boys of the UK schooling system, today is a momentous day. Today, thousands of deep-fat fryers will be lowered in defeat. Millions of chickens will remain unbreaded. An unthinkable number of fries will stay frozen. Ketchup will no longer splatter. Mayo will no longer flow. Today, girls and boys of the UK schooling system, is a victory for the pen pushers and a loss for the peng munchers; today is the day that ministers were urged to ban fast food outlets from opening within 400 yards of schools.
No More Fried Chicken on School Buses
There will be no more fried chicken on school buses. If you’re a child at school today, you’ve watched, powerless, as your parents and your parents’ parents voted the UK out of Europe, you’ve watched, powerless, as America elected Trump to office, and now you watch again, powerless, as your right to a Tower Burger Meal is snatched right before your dewy eyes.
Is this fair?
“Leading child doctors” from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health definitely think so. They have strongly advised that the government ban the opening of fast food outlets within 400 yards of schools as part of their new strategy to tackle child obesity, due to be published this summer.
The head of the college, Prof Russell Viner, has urged ministers to “take a leap of faith” and introduce the measures that he feels will help to keep junk food away from young students. Last January, the government published “a plan for action” against child obesity, setting out ways of steering kids away from unhealthy diets and ensuring they get enough exercise.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Prof Viner said that “People tend to eat what’s in front of them and we need to make it easier for children to make the right choices.”
“Kids are coming out of school hungry and finding themselves surrounded by cheap chicken shops, chip shops and other types of junk food. This just wasn’t the case 20 or 30 years ago.”
Writing for the Institute of Economic Affairs, Chris Snowdon – not to be confused with famous whistleblower Ed Snowden – writes that removing junk food outlets from the close proximity of schools is not a new idea, and that it hasn’t been successful in the past.
Snowdon calls for governments to base their policies on, and act on the basis of, fact, rather than intuition. But, isn’t the link between a very enormous piece of greasy fried chicken and increased cholesterol pretty incontrovertible?
“Zoning bans for fast food outlets have been tried before. And failed.” writes Snowden. He says he found only 74 studies relating directly to the issue and after weighing them against one another found that of those studies “only fifteen (20%) found a positive association between the proximity and/or density of fast food outlets and obesity/body weight.”
“Forty-four (60%)” he says, “found no positive association, of which eleven (15%) found evidence that living near a fast food outlet reduced the risk of putting on weight.”
Snowdon also feels that “Banning businesses from selling safe and legal food products is an extreme measure that is likely to have an adverse affect on consumers.”
So, who’s right? Snowdon or the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health? Will The UK government succumb to the academic pressures of the Royal College of Pediatrics and implement the ban, or will they stand by small businesses and chicken out?