With a cry I turned off the radio. I could take no more of the Labour leader from Waltham Forest Council celebrating preventing new businesses, new jobs and more choice for the residents of his borough. And all in the cause of health.
Maybe I'm over-reacting but this 'demonising' of the takeaway - blaming it for fat kids, poor schools and litter - is getting too much. For sure, there are places where converting shops to takeaways isn't right - where there's no parking, or adjacent properties that will be adversely affect by smells for example - but this campaign isn't about those issues, it's about judging the choices of others.
Now the London Food Board in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has issued a set of rules that planning authorities can use to stop all new hot food takeways. This is what the Councillor from Waltham Forest was crowing about - the prevention of business and job creation on the wholly unevidenced and spurious basis that takeaways make kids fat and unhealthy.
Here's the justification from the fussbuckets who authored the "Takeaways Toolkit" - after they'd admitted that takeaways employ local people and provide a valuable economic and community function:
However, as the modern world begins to wake up to the threat of a growing obesity epidemic more and more people have been turning their attention to the impact this food has on the health of the population.
Firstly, let's say it again - there is no "growing obesity epidemic" - rates of childhood obesity have stabilised and, on some measures, are falling. So we're building a scary straw man to beat up rather than addressing a real problem.
And secondly there is precisely zero evidence that fast food contributes to childhood obesity. Indeed there is evidence that suggests the very opposite is true:
When the researchers weighed these children they found something rather interesting. Here are the average body mass index (BMI) figures for each group by frequency of visits to fast food outlets. Bear in mind that a 'healthy weight is 18.5 to 25:
Weekly visits BMI
Every day: 17.8
4-6 times: 18.3
2-3 times: 19.6
Less than once: 21.4
Now is that clear enough for you? Essentially these findings show that the less often you visit a fast food outlet, the more like you are to be overweight.
And this isn't an isolated discovery either:
...there was no signiﬁcant association between increasing takeaway and fast food consumption and obesity as measured by BMI corrected for age and gender. This is not a new ﬁnding. For example, French and colleagues found no signiﬁcant relationship between frequent consumption of fast food and being overweight in their analysis of a cohort of 11-18-year-old boys and girls. Similarly, Simmons et al found no correlation between increasing takeaway consumption and obesity measured by either BMI or waist circumference.
Put simply, fast food is not the cause of that "obesity epidemic" (if there is one which there isn't). It's just that it's down-market finger food that's eaten by spotty kids in baseball caps - the Guardian and Daily Mail reading classes don't like fast food because it the sort of thing that "common" people eat.
This attack on the takeaway is about snobbery not health - us foodies peering down our noses at those working class people who don't know about "proper" food.