Lewisham Council courts “healthy” fast food chain Leon in bid to fight obesity

Dr Danny Ruta poses with Telegraph Hill residents after promoting the “Sugar Smart” awareness campaign at the ward assembly. Pic: Aidila Razak

Lewisham Council is courting fast food chain Leon in a bid to provide “healthier options” and fight obesity in the borough.

The council adopted a tougher stance on hot fast food takeaway outlets in 2014. Last year, it refused at least five applications to open such eateries in the borough.

The council’s director of public health, Dr Danny Ruta, said talks are underway for Leon to open its first outlet in South East London in Lewisham.

He told the Telegraph Hill Assembly last month: “We cannot close down existing chicken shops. But what we can do now is to not allow any new ones.

“We are working with healthy fast food chain Leon, which is more expensive but we are trying to bring the price down by working on the rent and so on.”

Ruta said the council had in 2010 adopted a ban on “fry shops” within a 400-metre radius of schools despite “strong opposition from fast food businesses”.

Lewisham has 285 fried food shops, Ruta said, which is a concern given the high levels of childhood obesity in the area.

One in five of students at reception year in the borough are obese or overweight, with the figure rising to 39 percent by the time they finish primary school, the council’s 2016 public health report states.

This is higher than England figures where one in four students are overweight or obese at reception year, while a third of Year Six students fall in the same category, according to the National Health Service.

Telegraph Hill residents at the assembly said fried chicken outlets contribute to childhood obesity, offering cheap high-fat and high-calorie snacks for children after school.

Ruta said Leon is “excited” about the prospect and is revising its menu for the potential Lewisham outlet to make it a viable alternative to high-calorie fast food options.

Leon’s prices start at around £5 per set meal, while a box of fried chicken can be as cheap as £1 at the local fried chicken shops.

Ruta was at the Telegraph Hill assembly to encourage residents to take part in the Sugar Smart awareness campaign to cut excessive sugar from children’s diets.

Some 60 local businesses and organisations have signed Sugar Smart pledges over the past year, he said.

The council is preparing templates for residents to send letters to their local MP urging more stringent regulation on fast food advertising.

Ruta said: “We want to start a social revolution. I don’t trust the politicians to do this on their own.”



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