Junk food at supermarket tills undermining healthy eating
Published 25 April 2012
A campaign group has hit out at supermarkets for placing junk food at checkouts.
The Children’s Food Campaign said supermarkets were undermining the efforts of parents to feed their children healthy food by making them queue past displays of unhealthy snacks to reach tills.
Asda, Morrisons and Iceland were identified as the “worst offenders”, but The Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose also came in for criticism.
Researchers looked at the checkout displays in 48 stores in London and found that most displayed unhealthy snacks at their tills, despite promising a decade ago to reduce or remove them.
They found that in many cases, junk food was positioned at children’s eye level, prompting children to pester their parents for sweets, crisps and soft drinks.
Researchers found displays of unhealthy food or drink at more than 80% of Asda, Morrisons and Iceland checkouts.
Even non-food retailers like Superdrug, New Look and WH Smith were found to place sweets and chocolates in their queuing areas, the report noted.
Supermarkets and retailers were further criticised for failing to offer any health alternatives alongside the junk food options.
The report said that not one of the traditional format supermarkets surveyed offered a healthy food option at the till.
Although Asda, The Co-op, Iceland and Morrisons were contacted by the researchers about their checkout displays, they either did not respond or offered no comment.
Only Waitrose’s flagship store on Oxford Street was commended for its “prominent and appealing” display of fresh fruit in the queuing areas.
The campaign group said this should “be the norm” across all supermarkets and all store formats.
Sophie Durham, Children’s Food Campaign spokesperson and co-author of the Checkouts Checked Out report, said: “Impulse purchases at the checkout can add several hundred unplanned calories to a family shopping basket.
“Supermarkets claim to be responsible retailers, yet they continue to put their profits ahead of families’ health.
“They should stop prompting pester power and help parents by removing promotions of sugary, fatty, salty and calorie-laden snacks and drinks near the checkouts, especially those placed within easy reach of children.
“It’s time to get the junk off the checkouts once and for all.”
Annie Seeley, a nutritionist and co-ordinator of the Food Commission’s Parents’ Jury, which investigated snacks at the checkout back in 2002 to 2005, said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that parents need to campaign again on this issue. Supermarkets seem to have reneged on their promises made after the Food Commission’s investigation a decade ago, and returned to the same bad old marketing habits of selling snacks high in sugar, salt and fat at their checkouts.”
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