Big stores banish check-out sweets

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The Independent Online
Three-fifths of check-out counters in food stores are free of sweets and chocolates, it was claimed yesterday. Sainsbury and Tesco, two of the big three superstore groups, are "virtually 100 per cent sweet-free".

Results of a survey of 6,200 check-outs in more than 600 stores were announced by the Chuck Sweets off the Checkout campaign, an alliance of health professionals founded three years ago. Next Thursday it launches a national day of action to combat children's "pester power" and persuade stores to go completely sweet-free.

The survey places Sainsbury and Waitrose top, with 100 per cent of check-outs sweet-free. Only those two and Tesco had such a check-out policy: but some Tesco counters had sweets.

Of the other big stores, Safeway has announced it will remove sweets from check-outs because of the "hassle" the practice causes parents with young children. Like Somerfield, it is also putting fruit at some check-outs. However, only 44 per cent of its check-outs were found to be sweet-free. Presto, owned by Safeway, has no policy and only 19 per cent of its check-outs do not sell confectionery.

Marks & Spencer also comes near the table's bottom, with a policy of only two sweet-free check-outs a store and 30 per cent of counters not selling confectionery. Other low-rated stores include Somerfield (30 per cent), the Somerfield-owned Food Giant (28 per cent) and Lo-Cost (26 per cent).

The campaign, backed by organisations including the British Dental and Medical associations and granted £20,000 from the Department of Health's oral health promotion fund, argues dental disease is the most widespread UK disease and "pester power" is a key factor.

A survey commissioned by the campaign from Gallup found overwhelming support from parents. Eighty-seven per cent of mothers and 74 per cent of fathers are against check-out sweets. More than 60 per cent of parents feel under pressure from children to buy: nearly half give in.

Iona Smeaton, campaign co-ordinator, said check-out queuing was "a stressful event with or without children under your feet. It is not a time when you are most likely to assert your own free choice ... This is exactly why sweets are placed there - for the impulse buy." About a third of the sweets adults buy for children are not planned.

The action day will include awards for good practice.