42% of Luton children aged 10 to 11 are overweight or obese, says council

Fast food
Fast food

Measures being taken in Luton to tackle child obesity are seen as positive steps by Public Health England (PHE) to help reduce the problem.

Research by the organisation in the East region shows that fast food hotspots are linked to areas of deprivation.

PHE has compiled figures relating to the number of chip shops, burger bars and pizza parlours in each local authority area per 100,000 people.

Luton ranks 16th in the region with 200 outlets and a ratio of 92.6 per 100,000 population.

Central Bedfordshire is 36th with 185 fast food premises at a rate of 66.9.

Other nearby local authorities include Stevenage as high as fourth, with 111 outlets at a ratio of 127.2.

Bedford is 14th with 159 giving it a ratio of 94.2.

Plans to limit future fast food takeaways near schools in Luton are part of a package of measures by the borough council to deal with the problem.

The local authority says about 42% of the town’s children aged 10 to 11 are overweight or obese.

It is promoting healthier school meals and fast food options with reduced salt and sugar alternatives.

And a Food Plan is being introduced this summer to encourage healthier diet options throughout the community.

Over a third of children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, according to PHE.

This increases their risk of being overweight or obese adults and suffering preventable diseases, including type two diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

While not all fast food is unhealthy, it is typically higher in salt, calories and saturated fat, says PHE.

These can cause serious health problems when consumed too often and in large quantities, it adds.

Health and wellbeing programme leader with PHE East Dr Simon How said: “Streets crowded with fast food outlets limits our choice which can have a huge impact on our health and for those who we are responsible for.

“Local authorities have the power to shape our environment and influence us to make healthier decisions.

“That’s why we are calling for them to restrict fast food outlets where children gather.

“This includes schools, community centres, parks, playgrounds and other open spaces, as a way to tackle childhood obesity,” he added.

A Planning for Health event was held to examine how developers, local authorities and PHE can work together to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities.

PHE has challenged the food industry to remove 20 per cent of calories from popular foods, including chips, burgers and pizzas, by 2024.

It is also asking industry to reduce sugar in everyday products by 20 per cent by 2020.