Almost 40 per cent of Year 6 school children in St Helens are overweight, a new council report has said.
The statistic has been published in the council’s Food Law Enforcement Service Plan 2018-19,
It follows a separate council report earlier this month that reveals, based on the latest indicators from Public Health England, 72.1 per cent of adults in St Helens are estimated to be overweight or obese.
The food plan says that, bases on data for 2015-16 from Child National Measurement Programme, around 40 per cent of St Helens children in Year 6 are overweight (including obese), compared with 34.2 per cent nationally.
Additionally, 27.5 per cent of reception age children in St Helens are overweight (including obese), compared to 22 per cent nationally.
The council has a legal duty to enforce food law and is required to provide a Food Law Enforcement Service Plan, which is reviewed each year.
The purpose of the plan is to provide the Food Standards Agency information on how the council deliver official feed and food controls and enables them to assess how effective its regulation will be.
The plan was presented to cabinet this week by Lynn Clarke, portfolio holder for better neighbourhoods.
She said: “Over recent years an emerging feature of the plan has been the development of initiatives aimed at tackling public health issues, such as obesity and allergy awareness.
“The plan includes proposals to encourage food businesses to introduce healthier options into their menu and to support them to identify any allergenic ingredients within the food labelling and recipes.
“This work also compliments other work being delivered from council services such as such as the design and provision of nutritionally balanced meals through school catering and the Fit for All family intervention project, run by the Healthy Living team.”
Cllr Gill Neal, cabinet member for better health and building arts and culture, welcomed the revised food plan.
She said: “It’s absolutely necessary that we have some measures in place to support the organisations and to think about some of the healthier options as we regenerate the town centre.
“So, I welcome that wholeheartedly.”
The obesity rate has doubled over the past 25 years in the UK.
In St Helens, data from the Health Survey for England indicates that obesity rates affect around a quarter of the adult population and this has remained static in the past two surveys.
Cllr Derek Long, leader of the council, called obesity a “major epidemic” and said the authority is “laying the foundations” to tackle future health problems.
He said: “I applaud the work both in terms of Food Standards but also Cllr Neal and her portfolio for trying to come to terms with what is a major, major epidemic across the country, which we need to try to get ahead of in terms of our council.”
Cllr Clarke said there are around 1,400 food businesses currently trading within the borough.
She told members the Food Law Enforcement Service Plan confirms the authority’s commitment to supporting the developing food services.
Cllr Clarke said: “The plan recognises that the food sector, including hotels, distribution and catering remains the largest industry within St Helens and is a key element of the local economy.
“A commitment to support such business is made within the plan with the provision of training, start-up advice and coaching visits.
“Through well-balanced regulation, it’s hoped that food services will assist in maintaining public confidence in local food businesses.”
Cabinet approved the plan and recommended that full council confirms its adoption for St Helens.
Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service