Sugary treats which cause obesity account for 70% of items at supermarket checkouts, research finds

High sugar and calorie-laden options dominate child-targetting promotional displays despite pledged crackdown

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Saturday 17 November 2018 14:22
What is sugar tax?

Supermarket checkouts and promotional displays are loaded with obesity-fuelling sweets and sugary drinks aimed at enticing young children who are shopping with their parents, new research has revealed.

High-sugar or calorie products – set to be included on a government blacklist – account for 70 per cent of food and drink in these high-visibility areas at five leading supermarkets’ stores, according to the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA).

Less than 1 per cent of food or drink in these high-visibility areas were fruit or vegetable products.

The findings suggest major retailers have not acted to change the use of unhealthy promotions, despite the government pledging a crackdown in the next round of its Child Obesity Strategy.

Caroline Cerny, who leads the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 charities, said: “We know that where products are located in shops influences how likely we are to purchase them.

“Sugary treats prominently displayed at checkouts or store entrances will be highly tempting to anyone, but especially children who will then likely pester their parents to buy them.”

The UK is currently grappling with an obesity epidemic that is affecting children at increasingly young ages, and contributing to the soaring cost of conditions like type 2 diabetes, as well as cancer and heart disease.

More than a third of children leaving primary school at age 11 are overweight or obese, according to the latest figures.

In response, the government introduced its “sugar tax” on soft drinks, which took effect in April this year, and is consulting on a second round of plans that will look at takeaways located near schools and promotional deals.

In August, the OHA visited five supermarkets – Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – to assess products at store entrances, checkout areas and aisle ends.

It found 43 per cent of products are included on a Public Health England’s draft proposal for its sugar reduction programme, while 27 per cent fell foul of calorie reduction guidelines.

“These powerful promotions tempt shoppers to make unhealthy last-minute decisions,” said Bryony Sinclair, senior policy manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, who called the deals “unacceptable”.

“Many of these food and drinks contain more sugar than the daily recommended amount for a young child. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of 12 different types of cancer.”

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