PAGE: No use banning fast food outlets near schools if no enforcement

Canteens are required to keep their prices down, which in turn has an impact on the quality of food.

PETALING JAYA: A parents group has warned that banning fast food outlets from operating near schools will only work if there is proper enforcement, and may not be the best way to tackle child obesity.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chief Noor Azimah Rahim said the idea of banning junk food pedlars from operating within 400m of schools was easy to introduce but would become irrelevant if there was zero enforcement.

“Students are hungry all the time. The solution is for the canteen to produce a la carte nutritious food at competitive prices.

“It is a catch-22 situation as far as the quality of food at schools is concerned. The canteen is required to not price food too high and the consequence is that poor quality food is sold,” she told FMT.

She was asked to respond to a report in UK paper The Telegraph, which quoted leading child doctors at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as saying fast food outlets should be banned within 400m of schools in England.

The doctors urged the British government to introduce the measure as part of its updated strategy to combat childhood obesity.

The president of the college, Russell Viner, was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: “Kids are coming out of school hungry and finding themselves surrounded by cheap chicken shops, chip shops and other types of junk food. This just wasn’t the case 20 or 30 years ago.

“People tend to eat what’s in front of them and we need to make it easier for children to make the right choices.”

Azimah said obesity among children in Malaysia was not as bad as it was in the UK. She added that in Malaysia, fast food was expensive and that mamak food was the culprit.

Meanwhile, Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) vice-president Yusof Abdul Rahman said the idea might be helpful and could be implemented in Malaysia.

He added that advertisements on junk food and fast food should not be broadcast during children’s programmes on TV.

He said when children saw fast food outlets, they would automatically be reminded of the advertisements they had seen and would be influenced to buy such food.

He said it was more important for parents to play their role by ensuring their children ate healthy food.