Call to stop sale of ‘really sh*t food’ in our city

A NEW action plan to halt rising obesity levels in Bristol could take a “system-wide approach” and oppose companies “selling really s*** food”. Public health experts believe systemic changes are needed in the wider Bristol region to help people reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Changes could be coming to school dinners and meals served in hospitals, after concerns about the quality and healthiness of this food. One council boss said companies were “perpetuating really poor diets”, and called for similar measures to anti-smoking policies.

Action will be coordinated across councils and NHS organisations that form the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care System. The plan was discussed during a meeting of the health and wellbeing board on May 23 at Bristol City Council.

Emily Moseley, a public health registrar, said: “One in five children are living with overweight or obesity when they start school, and this increases to one in three by the time they leave school. This has a big impact on the NHS, as obesity is linked to a range of non-communicable diseases.

“It’s possible that obesity could overtake tobacco and smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death. This impact isn’t felt equally across society, with lower income households facing multiple challenges in managing finances, making it harder to access nutritious food and opportunities to be physically active.”

She added there was a clear link between poverty and obesity. According to the council’s quality of life survey, the area with the highest level of people who are overweight and obese is Stockwood, followed by Brislington East, Henbury and Brentry.

She said: “There are a wide range of factors influencing an individual’s weight. Obesity isn’t based on willpower or personal responsibility. Our health-related behaviour and habits are influenced by our income, childhood and where we grow up.”

One concern is that the cost of living crisis is making it harder for people in poorer parts of Bristol to access nutritious and healthy food. The solution could form something similar to how public health measures have reduced smoking rates, according to one council boss.

Hugh Evans, executive director of adults and communities, said: “This calls for quite a radical lobby, a strong voice, like an anti-smoking level strong voice, because this is one of the most unfair and health-wise damaging issues. The cynical exploitation of people via the selling of really s*** food, and that perpetuation of really poor diets through commercial food production and sales, is something that we need to be getting quite strongly opposed to.”

One major issue is how thousands of schoolchildren are fed in Bristol. 

Ped Asgarian, director at the Feeding Bristol charity, said: “There are a lot of innovative ways happening around the country that we can look at to provide better food to schools. A lot of caterers are not hitting basic food school standards. There’s no accountability and no auditing for that on a national level at the moment, which is a huge issue.

The charity runs an annual Food Justice Fortnight every summer. This year, from June 23 until July 5, there will be a range of workshops, farm tours and film screenings about food inequality in Bristol.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service