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Fast-food outlets could be banned near schools

The Government is considering restrictions on takeaways, after a report revealed one in four Irish children is overweight.

Updated, 11.49

THE GOVERNMENT IS considering banning fast-food restaurants from areas near schools, in a bid to tackle the problem of child obesity.

One in four Irish children is now overweight, with one in every 14 classified as obese, according to a new report launched yesterday by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.

The figures are significantly higher for girls than for boys, with almost one in three female children – 30 per cent – qualifying as overweight or obese. The equivalent figure among boys is 22 per cent.

Minister Fitzgerald said there was a problem with the availability of unhealthy food. “I believe we need to look at regulating the proliferation of fast-food outlets,” she said.

She added that the UK already restricts new takeaways from opening within 400metres of schools, youth clubs or parks, but there is “no such similar national provision in the Irish planning framework.”

The Minister said the Government is now giving “active consideration” to measures “including regulating the proliferation of fast-food outlets”.

The Growing Up In Ireland study, which looks at nine-year-olds, shows a strong link between social class and weight. Just under 19 per cent of children from professional households are overweight or obese. The figure for children from semi- and unskilled employment households is around 34 per cent, rising to 38 per cent among girls.

Children from lower socio-economic group households tend to live further from food shops, particularly larger supermarkets with more fresh fruit and vegetables, the report said.

Parents often had little awareness of their child’s weight problems, with 54 per cent of parents of overweight children reporting that their child was “about the right” weight for their height. The figure was 20 per cent among parents of obese children.

However, weight perception had a significant impact on the child’s image of themselves. Children who perceive themselves as under or overweight are more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural difficulties, the report stated.

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Michael Freeman

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