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CITY SET TO BAN FAST FOOD TOYS; By-law will help fight child obesity EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: By NICK COLIGAN Political Reporter

A UNIQUE by-law could be brought in banning fast food companies from giving away toys with unhealthy meals in Liverpool.

Councillors are ready to act on the findings of an inquiry earlier this year which accused burger giants such as McDonald's and Burger King of contributing to the city's child obesity crisis.

Next week they will be asked to back plans for specific Liverpool-wide legislation preventing toys being given away with fatty food such as burgers, chips and chicken nuggets.

City leaders hope the idea could have a similar impact to the pioneering Smokefree campaign which eventually led to a nationwide ban on smoking in indoor public places.

Fast food companies have previously defended the distribution of toys, with McDonald's insisting the fat, salt and sugar content of its Happy Meals has dramatically reduced in recent years.

Cllr Paul Twigger, who headed the council's child obesity inquiry, said toy giveaways left parents open to "pester power".

He said: "These promotions are marketed directly at children.

"And busy parents often find it easier to give in than stand their ground.

"We do not want to ban all toys. But there should be a ban on selling them with unhealthy food.

"These things always seem to be someone else's problem. We do not want to be a nanny state, but someone has to take a stand.

"The response we got to Smokefree shows something can be done.

"We want the big corporations to wake up and realise healthier food promotes better health and well being.

"It makes children concentrate better in school and have healthier lifestyles later in life."

Shock figures last year showed almost one-third of 10 and 11-year-olds and nearly one-quarter of reception class children are officially classed as either overweight or obese.

Liverpool's director of public health Dr Paula Grey said the findings of the council's child obesity inquiry were being examined to see how they could be developed.

She added: "A great deal of work is being done to tackle obesity.

"Our programmes include community-based initiatives to encourage better diets, including the use of community food workers.

"There is a particular focus on children and young people, with a number of school-based initiatives."

Although McDonald's admits advertising to youngsters it insists three-quarters of its Happy Meal menu items are not high in fat, salt or sugar.

It also says it had made significant changes to its children's menu such as introducing orange juice, mineral water, fruit, carrot sticks and semiskimmed milk.

The by-law proposal will be discussed by Liverpool council next Wednesday.

nick.coligan@liverpool.com
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Words:434
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