MEMBERS of the community in Tynedale have hit out at calls to ban eating and drinking on public transport.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England, outlined the claim in her final report, demanding bolder action from ministers, including stricter regulation of food companies that seek to manipulate children.

The call for an outright ban on food and drink, except water, on public transport, in a bid to curb children snacking, has been met with disapproval among rail professionals and business owners.

At Riding Mill railway station, Christine Trueman co-owns the Station Coffee House, serving commuters and rail users on a day-to-day basis.

She said: “There’s no point in enforcing this.

“It’s crazy to do a blanket ban because of all the people affected, especially small businesses.

“We’ll get to the point where we’re having to question everyone on where they’ll be drinking or eating their food.”

Chairman of the Tyne Valley Community Rail partnership Malcolm Chainey said the eating and drinking ban on public transport wouldn’t be viable.

“Our trains between Newcastle and Carlisle can take a long time and to ban all food and drink is not realistic or sensible for a line that’s an inter city regional service,” he said.

“On long distance trains and their first class facilities, refreshments are already provided.

“If we want people to be more active and healthy we should be able to have more than two bikes on trains, which will then encourage more people to cycle.”

Among her series of bold recommendations, Prof. Davies said in order to meet its target to half childhood obesity by 2030, the Government should also:

  • Extend the sugar tax to sweetened milk-based drinks which contain added sugar.
  • Tax food firms that fail to reduce sugar, fat and salt in their products, and consider plain packaging for junk food.
  • Impose a cap on the number of calories per serving at food outlets.
  • Make free drinking water available in takeaways, food shops and restaurants.

In her review, Prof. Davies said “excess weight has slowly crept up on us all and is now often accepted as normal”.

Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said the report is “an urgent and ambitious call to action.”

In Northumberland, new figures show the county has the lowest proportion of overweight and obese children of the 12 local authorities in the North-East.

The findings from the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) in mainstream state-maintained schools show that Northumberland’s rates of overweight and obese children at both Reception and Year 6 dropped significantly on the previous year and are comfortably below the regional and national averages.

However, 18.9 per cent of the county’s Year 6 pupils (age 10-11) were categorised as obese, while 32.3 per cent were either overweight or obese.

In Reception (age four to five), 8.6 per cent of children in Northumberland were obese and 19.8 per cent were overweight or obese.

The prevalence of children in the county who were severely obese was 1.9 per cent in Reception and 3.4 per cent in Year 6.

Tackling obesity is a key strand running through the Northumberland Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for 2018 to 2028.