The UK has more fast-food joints than at any time in the last ten years. People are worried that’s part of the reason Brits are getting fatter.
What it means: The Office of National Statistics (ONS) counted up all the chippies, kebab vans and greasy spoons in the UK and found that there’s 34 percent more of them than there were in 2010. That’s good news for those of us partial to a 3am post-club takeaway (don’t lie, we’ve all been there) but bad news for the government, who have big plans to tackle obesity. People who have lots of takeaway shops near them are twice as likely to be obese. Widespread obesity can be bad news for people’s wellbeing and the economy: it leads to more unemployment and higher costs for public health, such as the NHS, for example.
There’s lots of things governments could do stop takeaways dominating highstreets. They could permit only a certain number to set up in each area or even ban them all together (takeaways, like all places selling food, need a government license to operate). Some councils already do this, by not allowing lots of takeaways near schools. But a wider rollout would upset a lot of people who enjoy fast food and/or think the government has no right to tell them what they can and can’t eat.
Ofc it’s not exactly unusual for governments to try and control our lives in ways that they think will make it better, and, actually, most people are pretty okay with the idea that we can’t buy heroin in the supermarket or drive our kids around without strapping on their seatbelts.
Plus, some people don’t think we have as much choice as we think we do when it comes to the food we eat. According to CEDAR, a company that does research about diets and exercise, takeaways can make up a third to a half of all food options on a high street, especially in poorer areas of the country. That means people looking to eat out (and who perhaps are too busy to cook) don’t always have a choice between eating healthily and eating unhealthily so much as a choice between eating unhealthily or not eating at all.
Or; read our explainers on consumer choice theory and government regulations.