Ballarat fast food boom: good news or bad?

*Click the dots on the Ballarat map to see which takeaway and fast food franchises are near you.

BALLARAT health professionals have labelled the state government as ‘hypocrites’ for supporting the opening of eight new McDonald’s restaurants, a day after launching a statewide campaign to tackle obesity. 

On Sunday, Health Minister David Davis launched the $1-million LiveLighter campaign to educate Victorians on the dangers of being overweight or obese. 

A day later, treasurer Michael O’Brien welcomed the opening of eight new McDonald’s restaurants in Victoria, including the Lucas store in Ballarat. 

The state government backing comes less than a week after the Heart Foundation labelled the Ballarat region the worst for cardiovascular health and the worst in the country for physical inactivity.

The state government’s announcement has worried some Ballarat health professionals. 

Spartans Gym strength and condition coach Matt Paterson said the government was money hungry. 

“It is pretty hypocritical,” Mr Paterson said. “The government is always looking for revenue. It is a catch 22.”

Mr Paterson said there was not always a correlation between the number of fast food outlets and the obesity rate. 

“Just because you open a McDonald’s doesn’t mean people will flock to it,” he said. 

Personal trainer and Ballarat Body Composition owner Ange Simpson said healthy meals were less accessible than fast food in Ballarat. 

August 14's front page of The Courier

August 14's front page of The Courier

“Fresh food and vegetables should be more affordable so people don’t resort back to processed food,” Ms Simpson said. “It is quite surprising that people come to the gym, train and then eat McDonald’s and think nothing of it, just because they have trained.”

Mr Davies told Melbourne radio on Monday that the government had a role to provide the community with information about healthy eating. 

“This is a matter of balance, it is a matter of people making some of their own decisions in an informed way,” he said. 

“There is nothing wrong with somebody occasionally going to a fast food outlet, but what we don’t want is for them to become the regular basic people’s diet.”

Mr O’Brien said moderation was key to a healthy lifestyle. 

“Everything in moderation is a good message,” he said. 

“There are foods you can have sometimes and we are very proud to stand with McDonald’s in this great investment that is creating thousands of new jobs for Victorians by the end of this year.”

kara.irving@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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