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Poorest communities are fast food hotspots, figures show

Fast food restaurants make up more than a quarter of all eateries in England.
Fast food restaurants make up more than a quarter of all eateries in England.

Fast food restaurants make up more than a quarter of all eateries in England and are found in higher concentrations in deprived areas, new figures show.

Of the 207,617 eateries in England, 53,333 (26%) are fast food outlets selling items including burgers, kebabs, chicken, chips and pizza, according to Public Health England (PHE) data.

The poorest communities are hotspots for such outlets, PHE said.

The figures come days after the Government published the second chapter of its childhood obesity strategy, including proposals to introduce mandatory calorie labelling on menus and a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: "It's not surprising some children find it difficult to resist the lure of fast food outlets when many neighbourhoods are saturated with them.

"Local authorities have the power to help shape our environment and support people in making healthier choices.

"They need to question whether these fast food hotspots are compatible with their work to help families and young children live healthier lives."

Almost one third of fast food outlets (32%) are in the top 20% of most deprived local authority areas, the figures show.

Blackpool has the highest density of fast food outlets with 232.2 per 100,000 people in England. Rochford, in Essex, has the lowest at just 25.7.

Meanwhile, Leeds has the most fast food outlets in one local authority, with 957 establishments.

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, called for new legislation to help councils address "damaging food environments".

She said: "We urgently need to take action to tackle childhood obesity and councils are playing their part, but need more planning powers to help tackle this epidemic which has made the UK the most obese nation in western Europe.

"Councils appreciate that a flourishing hospitality sector in our towns and cities is good for local economies, and where they have introduced restrictions on takeaways are working with businesses to help create healthier menus for their customers.

"Numerous councils have set curbs on new fast food outlets but current legislation means they lack planning powers to tackle the clustering of existing takeaways already open."

At least 40 local authorities in England have policies to restrict the growth of new takeaways and fast food outlets, PHE said.