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Background: The contemporary Scottish diet is unhealthy and a risk factor for poor health outcomes including obesity. Over a third of Scottish children are at risk of being overweight or obese, and there have been calls to strengthen the evidence base on the role of the food retail environment around schools in influencing the consumption of unhealthy foods. Methods: We examined the food retail environment around five secondary schools in Glasgow city, Scotland. Trained fieldworkers observed the food purchasing behaviour of school pupils in local shops. Samples of the most popular foods were subsequently purchased by the research team and assessed for nutritional content, including energy, total and saturated fat, and salt. This was compared with the nutrient standards for school lunches established by the Scottish Government. Results: There was marked variation in the number of outlets identified within a 10 min walk from each school, ranging from five in the area with the lowest number of outlets to thirty in the area with the highest number of outlets. Outlets identified were heterogeneous and included fish and chip shops, kebab shops, convenience stores, newsagents, bakeries, mobile catering units, cafés, pizzerias, sandwich shops and supermarkets. Lunchtime offers and other marketing strategies targeting school pupils were observed at most outlets. Nutritional analysis of the 45 savoury food items purchased was conducted by laboratory staff. Of the foods analysed, 49% of the samples exceeded recommended calorie intake, 58% exceeded total fat recommendations and 64% exceeded saturated fat recommendations, 42% exceeded recommended salt levels. Over 80% of the 45 food items sampled did not comply with one of more of the nutrient standards for fat, saturated fat and salt. Meal deals and promotions of unhealthy foods aimed at pupils were widely available. Conclusions: The majority of pupils purchased unhealthy convenience food of poor nutritional value at lunchtime in local shops around their school. Further effort is required to implement regulatory levers such as taxation on unhealthy foods, restriction on the concentration of outlets selling unhealthy foods as well as the development of partnerships and additional measures within and beyond schools to promote healthy foods.
Crawford, F., Mackison, D., Mooney, J. D., & Ellaway, A. (2017). Observation and assessment of the nutritional quality of “out of school” foods popular with secondary school pupils at lunchtime. BMC Public Health, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4900-9