The role of independent fast-food outlets in obesogenic environments: a case study of East London in the UK
In the battle to curb rising levels of obesity the focus has moved from individual interventions towards addressing factors within the ‘obesogenic environment’. Fast-food outlets are argued to be an increasingly important aspect of this environment and recent UK government policy has suggested that local authorities should use their planning powers to restrict the opening of new fast-food outlets in local neighbourhoods. This policy has a particular impact on the growing number of independent fast-food outlets which characterise deprived inner-city areas. Focusing on a case study of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and its independent fast-food sector, this paper explores the range of local variables, and in particular the crucial mix of socioeconomic and cultural factors, which have influenced its development. The role played by fast-food outlets in providing local employment and a culturally acceptable social space for the local Muslim community, through the provision of halal food in an alcohol-free environment, is particularly highlighted. In uncovering these particular local sensitivities, the paper aims to contribute to debates regarding the nature of ‘obesogenic environments’ and demonstrate that local level research is essential for enabling better understanding for developing policy interventions.
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