Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.31 9 Nov 2020


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There are fresh calls for no fry zones around schools, as Ireland is "lagging way behind" other countries in tackling obesity.

A new report from University College Cork (UCC) has recommended the introduction of planning legislation which would ban unhealthy food outlets being located within 400 metres of schools.

It's part of a range of measures recommended to stop Ireland 'falling behind' in food habits, with other recommendations including an extension of the tax on unhealthy food to subsidise healthy eating options for disadvantage groups.

The report - led by Dr Janas Harrington - also proposes that schools be issued with nutritional standards which would also apply to school tuck shops.

It highlights that Ireland compares poorly with other countries when it comes to tackling obesity.

"We're lagging way behind"

There have been a number of calls for no fry zones over the years, including in a 2018 Oireachtas report.

Dr Donal O'Shea, HSE lead for obesity, told Newstalk Breakfast that the study is much broader than just a call for no fry zones.

He explained: "No fry zones have been talked about for a long time, but this call from UCC is for a broader picture on the whole role of marketing and promotion of food to kids.

"If you have fast food outlets within a short distance of schools, that's where children will go and eat - either at lunch if they're allowed out, or straight after school.

"No fry zones, the WHO has said, are a good idea - but this is broader than that, this study. It's saying we're lagging way behind other countries in terms of what we allow the food and drink industry to do in terms of marketing and promotion to our young people."

Dr O'Shea said it's important to look at the rate at which obesity drives chronic illnesses in adults, as obesity is something that starts in childhood.

He observed: "People are living longer than ever, but they're living longer than ever with more years of chronic disease. That's causing huge personal toll, and [having a] huge impact on our health system."

Campaigners

Meanwhile, Phil Moyles - the Chairperson of No Fry Zone 4 Kids - spoke to Lunchtime Live about their long-running campaign for no fry zones around schools.

'No fry zones' needed around schools as Ireland 'falling behind' in tackling obesity, experts say

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He said: "I'm from Greystones, and we've been involved in quite a long campaign to have no fry zones around schools implemented - going back as far as 2013.

"The main reason for this is it prevents children from getting easy access to unhealthy foods; it helps to build a healthier environment in the community; and it will reduce targeted promotion of unhealthy foods at young children."

He explained that his own group began campaigning due to plans for a McDonald's restaurant located within 150 metres of three schools.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: John Stillwell/PA Archive/PA Images

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