New data published by Public Health England shows that Northumberland has the lowest density of fast-food outlets in the North East.
Across the region, the local authority with the highest density of fast-food outlets per 100,000 population is Hartlepool (143.6 per 100,000 people), contrasting with Northumberland, which stands at 85.4 per 100,000 people.
The density of fast-food outlets in local authorities in England ranges from 24 to 199 per 100,000 of the population. The national average is 88 per 100,000.
Public Health England says that collecting this information is important because there is a growing body of evidence on the association between exposure to fast-food outlets and obesity, despite some studies showing conflicting results.
Data from the National Child Measurement Programme shows there are more overweight or obese children in poorer areas. Fast food is also likely to be high in saturated fat and salt, of which the population exceeds official recommendations.
Professor Peter Kelly, PHE centre director for the North East said: “Over a fifth of adults and children eat takeaway meals at home more than once a week which is contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic.
“Councils are already trying to limit new takeaways, particularly around schools, addressing this issue in very interesting ways according to their own local concerns. This data will be useful for local authorities to consider alongside their other public health responsibilities.”
Local authorities can use this data to target resource to help tackle overweight and obesity levels. Public Health England published a briefing for local authorities in 2014 on introducing fast-food outlet exclusion zones around schools to help reduce children’s exposure to foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and calories.
Public Health England also published a joint briefing with the Town and Country Planning Association and Local Government Association to support local authorities to plan and design healthier weight environments.
Public Health England is calling on the population to follow a healthy, balanced diet, based on the new Eatwell Guide, which includes eating a minimum of five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day and increasing consumption of oily fish and fibre. Foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts.