The “Better Health for London” report led by Lord Darzi set out five steps to a healthier, slimmer, fitter capital; and found that 50% of the Londoners it polled would support a minimum pricing policy on alcohol.
It said its plan would support Boroughs afflicted by problem drinking to use their licensing powers to set a minimum 50p per unit price.
At the same time, 73% of Londoners supported restrictions on junk food outlets near schools in the Commission’s poll. Additionally 73% of those polled said they would support restaurants and takeaway chains having to display nutritional information about calories, salt and fat, while 82% said such labelling would encourage them to choose healthier options.
The reported stated that there are 490 admissions to hospital for binge drinking every night in London. The commission said that piloting this policy of a minimum 50p per unit price for alcohol in just three London boroughs could save 215 hospital admissions a year, saving the NHS £1m.
The report said: “Particular boroughs face more severe alcohol problems than others. Since London boroughs are responsible for licensing of all venues that sell alcohol, an application could be made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to approve variations in licensing laws to enforce minimum prices in pilot areas.”
The report also confirmed its proposal that all chains with more than 15 outlets would be required to show traffic-light labelling on their menus to help Londoners make healthier choices, plus the introduction of new planning guidance to prevent new junk food outlets opening within 400m of schools.
The report says a London Health Commissioner should be appointed reporting to the Mayor to drive through the necessary change.
Lord Darzi said: “Londoners’ waistlines are expanding, since we eat too much and exercise too little. More than a million Londoners still smoke, and there is significant harm from problem drinking. Too many children get off to too poor a start in life. We can do better: the healthiest choice isn’t always easy and isn’t always obvious. The goal is to make each of those millions of individual decisions that bit easier.”
“A truly great global city is a healthy city. London aspires to be the world’s healthiest major global city. That means a city that helps its people to make healthier choices, it means a city that focuses on improving the health of the most vulnerable and it means providing consistently excellent care for people when they need it.”
It said that more than 3.5 million Londoners are obese or overweight. London has the highest rate of children that are obesity or overweight of any major global city.
Lord Darzi said: “Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. We need to help our children make healthy choices. All London councils should follow the lead of Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, and Tower Hamlets by refusing permission for fast food outlets to open within 400m of schools. The Mayor should include this guidance in his London Plan.
“We also need to help ourselves to make better choices. Concerted action is necessary by London councils to use licensing arrangements to require all chain restaurants and food outlets to include nutritional labelling on all menus.”
There are 8,000 junk food outlets in London and their numbers are growing at 10% a year. A single meal typically provides 60% of daily calories.
The report said that traffic light labelling with an overall rating – rather than specific calories – appears to work better than multiple traffic lights or daily intake recommendations when people are asked to identify healthier foods. In a study by the Food Standards Agency, including ‘high’ ‘medium’ and ‘low’ ratings on foods using traffic lights helped people’s understanding.
Accordingly, the commission said it believed that London should introduce traffic light labelling in all restaurants and cafes with more than 15 outlets nationally. This would avoid placing an unrealistic burden on small restaurant or café owners.