BUSINESSES such as restaurants and cafes are to be urged to review their children’s menus as part of a concerted action plan to cut obesity in a borough where more than one in five 11-year-olds are obese.

Darlington Borough Council’s public health bosses are aiming to develop a “Darlington Standard” across every premises in the borough serving food, ranging from cafes to schools, to ensure no children’s meal on offer has above the recommended daily allowances of calories, fat, sugar or salt.

While many objectives of the council’s Childhood Healthy Weight Plan are traditional, such as educating people and encouraging breastfeeding and exercise, it is also aiming to “transform the environment so that healthier choices are available in the provision of food consumed out of the home”.

The move, which will see businesses urged to consider children’s portion sizes, follows a government consultation on whether to make calorie labelling on restaurant menus mandatory as part of its childhood obesity plan.

The council’s action plan comes just weeks after a Cambridge University study revealed restaurants that display calories on their menus serve healthier food.

It also comes two years after the authority said it would limit the number of takeaways in areas saturated with fast food outlets, as part of a concerted drive to tackle childhood obesity, with public health intervening in licensing applications after a link was established between the density of takeaways in areas and the weight of children living there.

In Darlington, childhood obesity is above the national average at both reception and year six age groups at 21.2 per cent, however, wards such as Pierremont and Park East have 27.5 per cent and 23.9 per cent of children classed as obese, and a total of 50 takeaways.

A council spokeswoman said the action plan set out “a whole system approach recognising the complex relationship between the social, economic and physical environment coupled with individual factors that underpin the development of obesity”.