Chocolate Easter eggs are fuelling Britain's obesity problem, says group

(Photo: Tim Gouw)

Retailers are being urged to stop pushing chocolate Easter eggs early in the year because of concerns that it is contributing to Britain's obesity problem.

According to new research commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health, half of the British public has already bought and eaten at least one Easter-themed piece of chocolate, treat or cake, despite the Christian holiday still being weeks away. 

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) have already bought and eaten at least one full-sized Easter egg this year.

Despite the British public's soft spot for the chocolate Easter egg, the poll found that over three-quarters (77 per cent) believe that supermarkets start selling Easter eggs too early in the year. 

Over half of parents surveyed (57 per cent) said their child had been tempted by an Easter treat displayed near the supermarket checkout. 

Over two-thirds (68 per cent) said there were too many advertisements promoting unhealthy foods around holidays and special occasions, with over a third (38 per cent) saying that seasonal products on sale in supermarkets caused them to eat less healthily than at other times of the year. 

With many of the chocolate eggs providing nearly three quarters of the recommended daily calorie intake for adults, the RSPH is urging retailers to scale back their promotions of eggs and other sweat treats over Easter. 

It said the measure could help to address rising rates of obesity in the UK, where one in four adults (27 per cent) are overweight - the highest proportion in western Europe - and a fifth of year 6 students are obese. 

The organisation is calling on supermarkets to remove Easter eggs from their checkouts and drop the "pester power" strategies targeting children with seasonal products that are high in fat, salt and sugar. 

Shirley Cramer, CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH said: "We recognise that special occasions such as Easter are a time for indulgence and treats.

"However, it is clear that many shops and supermarkets are pushing products way too early – it isn't uncommon to find Easter eggs on sale in the first week of January.

"Our research suggests that the public find this mildly irritating and it is just putting unnecessary temptation out there, particularly for children.

"If supermarkets are serious about tackling the obesity epidemic, we would urge retailers to change their marketing strategies in the interest of the public's health."