Unless they want to ditch fried foods, that is

By Tim Nelson
February 07, 2018

There are few things more synonymous with London food culture than takeaway shops serving up burgers, chicken and chips. If an early element from Mayor Sadiq Khan’s upcoming “London Plan” is true, however, it sounds like where such fast food outputs can be and what they’ll serve is slated for an overhaul. 

In a step meant to address the “ticking time bomb” of childhood obesity in the UK capital, Khan’s proposal will ban the establishment of any new fast food restaurants within 400 meters (a quarter-mile to us yanks) of any “existing or proposed primary or secondary school,” according to the Evening Standard. In order to skirt the regulations and sell fish, chips, or any peng chicken to hungry schoolchildren, fast food outlets will have to serve grilled or baked lower-sodium options to encourage students to make healthier food choices.

Before you declare the plan rubbish, it’s worth noting that some data implies a correlation between childhood obesity and school absenteeism. “Our high streets are increasingly saturated with takeaways and our school children consume too much unhealthy food and drink,” said Dr. Yvonne Doyle, London’s regional director for Public Health England. “This plan will encourage a healthier food environment around our schools so that junk food is no longer the option for children nearest the school gates.”

For Khan, the move represents an attempt to balance public health concerns with a desire to preserve London’s signature late-night food spots. “Takeaway restaurants are a vibrant part of London life, but it’s important that they are not encouraging our children to make poor food choices,” the Mayor said, calling the edict “part of a package of measures” that will “help us all lead healthier lives.” As long as they don’t outlaw takeaway shops near pubs, there shouldn’t be too much of an outcry from the voting public. 

It’s unclear when this and other London Plan measures (including efforts to preserve London’s greenbelt and a push for more housing) will go into effect, not to mention what the long-term implications of such a policy might be. At least students will be getting some extra steps in next time they cut class to grab a burger.