Enforcing ‘No Fry Zones’ around our schools would be a very welcome step in the battle against obesity and should be viewed as an important part of health promotion.
I was disappointed to see recently that a ban on fast-food outlets setting up within 400m of schools, parks or playgrounds is being opposed by Wicklow County Council management. People really shouldn’t see this proposed ban as a negative – it is a real positive in the fight for the future health of our children.
This is something that I have campaigned for for some time. The 2013 guidelines for the development of local area plans state that a plan can seek to reduce the exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar through the careful consideration of the appropriateness and/or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks. However there has been little adherence to these guidelines. We now need to examine proposals to better encourage adherence to these guidelines.
There is a clear imperative to limit access to unhealthy fast foods for children. A quarter of 11-year-olds are now clinically obese. We are facing an obesity time bomb, which I have spoken about on many previous occasions.
A study of Irish childhood obesity recently revealed that children who are obese have an 82% chance of remaining so into adulthood, compared with just 15% of children with a normal weight in childhood. I believe we need to do everything possible to stop that, and no fry zones are one such tool we can use.