Fast food is a modern convenience. Conversely, obesity is a modern crisis. But the link between the two is far from straightforward.
The news that Portsmouth is a fast food hotspot, with more outlets per head of population than elsewhere in the south, is less a damning indictment, and more an illustration of the laws of supply and demand.
Public Health England finds the statistic worrying however, and is calling on councils to impose 400m exclusion zones to prevent fast food outlets opening near parks and schools.
In Portsmouth’s case it may be a little late for that.
We are an economy partly dependent on tourism. We have a vibrant leisure economy and a thriving student population.
As Cllr Matthew Winnington points out, most seaside resorts have a large number of takeaways.
Public Health England is a government executive agency, sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, which exists to ‘protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.’
To that extent, it is correct to raise concerns about anything that might compromise the nation’s wellbeing.
Ultimately, however, the choice lies with the consumer.
Merely because a city has a lot of fast food outlets does not mean we all eat there every night.
The best Public Health England can hope for is that drawing attention to our easy access to fast food might make some people think twice before buying it.
Ultimately the answer to the nation’s obesity problem lies not with the ‘nanny state’ telling us what to do, but in people taking responsibility and making informed choices for their own health – by eating less and exercising more.