Will a Leeds council crackdown on numbers of takeaways really solve the obesity crisis?

Leeds council bosses could soon have new powers to put a cap on takeaway numbers, as they bid to stop a looming health crisis fuelled by the city's collective addiction to junk food.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:21 am

A consultation is about to be launched on plans to control the siting and concentration of hot food takeaways in the city, especially near schools.

It follows earlier revelations in the YEP that there are almost 800 takeaways and fast food joints in the city, but licensing bosses receive scores of new applications every year with little power to refuse them.

Research showed one in five adults in Leeds is classified obese, and more than a THIRD of children are overweight.

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Experts said the availability and cheapness of takeaway meals was a key factor. One health expert previously told the YEP: “Limiting takeaway numbers would be a good thing. People need support and better options being made available.”

A report to be discussed by a Leeds City Council panel next week explains that officers have been tasked with drafting a special policy document to control HFT (hot food takeaway) proposals, “particularly from the perspective of improving the health and wellbeing of Leeds’ population”.

It is hoped the panel will give its endorsement for the launch of a public consultation on the proposed policy. Any regulation change will also “provide further clarification on how current LCC planning policies can protect against all types of adverse impacts created by HFTs”.

Once adopted, the HFT SPD (hot food takeaway supplementary planning document) will carry weight when the council makes decisions on future planning applications.

News of Leeds’s junk food crackdown comes as new figures revealed that at least 79 million ready meals and 22 million fast-food and takeaway meals are eaten weekly by adults in the UK.

The findings from Cancer Research UK are based on a YouGov survey, which found that young adults aged 18-24 are more likely to rely on convenience meals, and are seven times more likely to indulge in fast food and takeaways at least once a week compared to the over 65s.

The report also found that men were more likely than women to eat convenience food rather than make meals at home.

It’s estimated that adults in England consume an extra 200-300 calories every day, which is around the same calorie content as two packets of salted crisps.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “These figures show that ‘grab and go’ foods and a growing appetite for takeaways and ready meals are helping to propel us towards an epidemic of larger waistlines and increased cancer risk.

“The whole food industry needs to step up and commit to working with government to cut the amount of fat and sugar in our food. This would make it that bit easier for all of us to become healthier and reduce our cancer risk.”