Limiting access to fast foods in corporate plans

Why this is important

The fast pace of life today, combined with easy access to fast food and high exposure to fast food advertising and marketing, means fast foods are often chosen over foods that are prepared at home. Fast foods are often higher in fat, sugar and calories. Evidence from the United States and Canada has found fast food consumption and outlet density is associated with obesity, diabetes, heart problems and mortality.(1)

Defining fast food or take-away food outlets can be difficult. Much of the research and policy in this area only considers individual foods. The ‘allowable proportion of unhealthy foods on a menu’ for example, has not been defined and today traditional fast food outlets are broadening their menu to include healthy eating options. However, there is a growing interest in the use of zoning to restrict fast-food outlets to protect and promote community health.(2-6)

Possible definitions for these outlets include:

  1. Food outlets mainly engaged in the preparation and sale of meals and light refreshments that are ready for immediate consumption where:
    • table service is not provided
    • the meal can be eaten on site, taken away or delivered
    • the food is prepared and sold from a standard menu
    • payment is required before the food is consumed.(2)
  2. A franchise or number of similar establishments under one ownership, or management with common branding, where foods such as chicken, chips, pizza, hamburgers etc can be provided without significant time delay.

It would be appropriate for local government to consider the definition within the context of its intended policy direction.

Nevertheless, it may be possible to use planning scheme provisions to limit the availability of unhealthy food and beverages by managing or limiting the density and location of takeaway and fast food outlets. Similarly, there have been precedents to restrict the location and density of adult shops to respond to community views and protect children. There is now an increasing trend to use this approach for takeaway and fast food outlets. Recommended planning scheme requirements include:

  • limiting the total number and proximity of fast food outlets to each other
  • locating fast food outlets a minimum distance (for example 400 metres) from schools and playgrounds
  • restricting hours of fast food outlet opening hours
  • prohibiting drive-through service and play equipment.(1)

Healthy Weight 2008-12 and Eat Well Queensland 2002-2012: Smart Eating for a Healthier State(7) have found that:

  •  targeting fast food is critical to improving eating patterns and reducing nutrition-related health issues
  • fast food consumption is associated with increased intakes of energy and fat, and decreased intakes of fibre and vegetables
  • those who are most socio-economically disadvantaged have 2.5 times the exposure to fast food than those who have the highest weekly incomes
  • body mass index (a measure of weight against height) is higher among people of low socio-economic status than people of high socio-economic status
  • approximately 30 per cent of the total food expenditure in Australia is spent on food prepared outside the home

Strategies

  1. Review the council planning scheme for opportunities to limit access to unhealthy food — including Strategic Outcomes and codes to limit fast food outlets and signage — and make appropriate amendments
  2. Provide education to the community on the impacts of eating fast food through making information available at council venues and other forums.

References

 

  1. Queensland Health, Central Area Population Health Services 2006, Creating Supportive Environments for Healthy Eating, Queensland Health, Maroochydore.
  2. Turrell, G. 2003, The Brisbane Food Study: A Multi-level and Spatial investigation of socio-economic differences in food purchasing behaviour, Queensland University of Technology, School of Public Health, Brisbane.
  3. Samia Mair, J., Pierce, M.W., Teret, S.P. 2005, The Use of Zoning To Restrict Fast Food Outlets: A Potential Strategy To Combat Obesity, [Online] Available at: www.publichealthlaw.net/Zoning%20Fast%20Food%20Outlets.pdf
  4. Armstrong, R.M. 2007, ‘Obesity, law and personal responsibility’, Nutrition and Obesity — Conference Report, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 186, no. 1, pp 20 [Online] Available at: www.mja.com.au/public/issues/186_01_010107/armstrong_fm.html
  5. Magnusson, R. 2008, ‘What’s Law Got to Do with it? Part 1: A Framework for Obesity Prevention’, Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, vol. 5, no. 10, Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/57.
  6. Hodge, J.G., Garcia, A.M., Shah, S. 2008, ‘Legal Themes Concerning Obesity Regulation In The United States: Theory and Practice’, Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, vol. 5, no.14 [Online] Available at: www.anzhealthpolicy.com/content/5/1/14
  7. Queensland Government 2005, Eat well, be active – healthy kids for life: the Queensland Government’s first action plan 2005-2008, Queensland Government, Brisbane [Online] Available at: www.health.qld.gov.au/ph/documents/hpu/29187.pdf