Education & Family

Sweets at supermarket tills 'undermine healthy eating'

Sweet display
Image caption Campaigners want displays of sweets and snacks to be ousted from supermarket checkouts

Supermarkets stand accused of undermining parents' efforts to feed children healthily by displaying junk food near checkout queues.

The Children's Food Campaign says most high street supermarkets place snacks near tills despite promising a decade ago to reduce or remove them.

Researchers surveyed hundreds of checkouts at 48 stores in London.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the report ignored the bigger, positive picture.

The authors of the report, Checkouts Checked Out, say they found that in many cases, junk food was positioned at children's eye level, prompting them to pester for sweets, crisps and soft drinks.

The researchers also found unhealthy snacks at four out of five checkouts at the Asda, Morrisons and Iceland stores they visited.

They also criticised the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose for making families queue past shelves of sweets and snacks to get to the tills.

The authors also said they were disturbed that non-food retailers such as HMV, New Look, Superdrug and WH Smith were featuring sweets and chocolates in the queuing area.

'Unplanned calories'

They also said that none of the traditional format supermarkets they visited had any healthy food options promoted at their checkouts, and that it was impossible to avoid junk food at the checkouts of the compact high street stores.

They did, however, praise Waitrose for the fresh fruit displays near the tills at its flagship Oxford Street store.

The Children's Food Campaign wants junk food removed from tills in all types of store and says the government should make this a key public health initiative, even widening the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority to include the positioning of unhealthy products.

Report author Sophie Durham 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."

Amanda Flint, a mother of four and supporter of the campaign, said: "Shopping with my kids is hard enough as it is. So to be subjected to rows of sweets and chocolates at the checkout is maddening. I want it to be easier to choose healthy options for my family."

Andrew Opie, the BRC's director, responded: "Retailers are doing a great deal to promote healthy eating in their stores. This includes selling healthier snacks, promoting fruit and vegetables, and even reformulating products to reduce the calories and salt they contain.

"Focusing on how products are sold in one part of some stores ignores the bigger, positive picture.

"Retailers exist to offer value and convenience to their customers. There's a whole range of products to be found near checkouts, including batteries, magazines and gift cards."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "As a nation we all need to eat less, but simply tying companies up with endless regulations doesn't work.

"We need to equip everyone with the tools to make healthier decisions. Through Change4Life we are encouraging everyone to be more active and look at swapping to healthier options.

"In just over a year the Responsibility Deal has moved further and faster in taking action to cut salt, trans fats and calories in our foods."

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