Watchdog Live’s undercover investigation found 17/18 branches of Boots, Superdrug and Holland & Barrett sold diet pills to teenage shopper aged under 18. It is not illegal to sell these products to under-18s, but the products themselves are only recommended for adults, and all the retailers have policy in place to prevent their sale to underage shoppers. 6/6 branches of Superdrug, 6/6 branches of Holland & Barrett, and 5/6 branches of Boots did not follow these policies. Child psychologist Dr Anna Colton described the results as “terrifying”- saying that retailers have a duty of care not to sell slimming products to vulnerable young people.
"As a responsible retailer, we want to reassure all our customers that immediate action has been taken as a result of your investigation. We had existing policies in place to ensure that age restricted products are sold appropriately and so we have taken your findings extremely seriously.
Our actions consist of checking that all appetite suppressant products have a till restriction. When scanned through the till, it activates a ‘prompt’ to flash up and remind cashiers that the product is not to be sold to those under the age of 18 years and to ask for photographic ID.
We have also issued out specific training on age restricted diet products to all staff. In addition, only registered customers, who’ve confirmed their date of birth, can buy age restricted products online.
Furthermore, we want to help educate customers about these age restrictions and have plans to implement shelf signs in all stores that sell these diet products informing customers of our policy."
"We have been providing healthcare advice to the nation for 170 years and looking after the health and wellbeing of our customers is our number one priority. As part of that we are here to help people that would like to lose weight in a responsible way. We have a number of products and services to help customers achieve this and we have pharmacists and healthcare trained colleagues in store who are able to offer advice about healthy lifestyle choices and the safe use of diet aids, medical devices and food supplements.
These products are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Boots follows all the relevant guidance for their sale. On our website and on the product boxes it clearly states the recommended age guidance for the products in question. In addition to following the correct guidance as to how these products are currently sold in store, we are looking at how our colleagues communicate with customers to best meet their needs when buying these products."
Holland & Barrett statement:
“Ensuring our products are sold responsibly is of the upmost importance to Holland & Barrett. Although the legal requirements may not preclude the sale of weight management products to under-18s, we have undertaken to uphold a higher standard. We are therefore very disappointed that this investigation has highlighted cases where we have fallen short of the standards we expect in our stores, and are taking immediate actions to ensure this is addressed. We are ensuring information around age restrictions is strengthened in our stores and online, and are reviewing our training to ensure all colleagues are clear on our policies relating to these products. Importantly, our colleagues will now be prompted to request ID for customers who look under 25 when purchasing all age-restricted weight management products, and we will decline the sale of these products to customers who cannot demonstrate they are above 18. Holland & Barrett takes its role as a responsible retailer extremely seriously, and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure the highest standards are upheld in all our stores.”