Leading the calls for junk-free checkouts

By on 16/09/2013 in News

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A Birmingham healthy eating expert is leading a national campaign calling on supermarkets to permanently remove unhealthy snacks from checkouts.

Backed by obesity specialists of the British Dietetic Association and the Children's Food Campaign, the Junk Free Checkouts campaign (www.junkfreecheckouts.org) aims to give shoppers a number of easy ways, both in store and online, of highlighting what is being sold at checkouts and in queuing aisles, and pressing the case for change at the till.

And Linda Hindle, consultant dietician at Public Health Birmingham, says the campaign has strong public support after a recent survey found that 7 in 10 Birmingham shoppers were unhappy with the sale of sugary or high calorie food and drink items at checkouts.

The survey, conducted in partnership with the British Dietetic Association and Slimming World, found:

  • 70 per cent of people find having junk food at the checkouts 'annoying'. The main reason given for this is that junk food can be hard to resist at the checkout.
  • 57 per cent of people feel junk at the checkout affects their eating habits
  • 75 per cent of people have been pestered by their children to buy junk food at the checkouts and 60 per cent of people have given into their children and purchased something due to being pestered.
  • 46 per cent of people would be more likely to shop at a supermarket if they banned junk food from their check outs

The Junk Free Checkouts campaign comes amid conflicting signals from the Department of Health about the scope and strength of a new voluntary code of conduct on the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt, which is currently being drawn up by the Government in consultation with the food industry.

Speaking on behalf of the BDA, obesity specialist Linda Hindle said: “Unplanned calories from foods high in fat and sugar purchased at checkouts contribute towards poor diet and poor health, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which may lead to premature death.

“Eating sugary or acidic food and drink also directly contributes to tooth damage. Although dental decay is completely preventable, one third of 12 year old children have a filled or extracted tooth - a sure sign that the rot of poor diets is already setting in.

“Far too many retailers are unwilling to stop pushing unhealthy food at the checkout and queuing areas. It may be lucrative for them but, as our survey found, it is deeply unpopular with customers and nudges purchasing behaviour in the wrong direction. If retailers can't act on their own, then we hope to see robust action from the government to tackle this problem.”

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, added: “Since our Checkouts Checked Out report in 2012, a few supermarkets (including Co-op and M&S) have responded by displaying more healthy snacks near the till; and Lidl has even temporarily trialled 'guilt-free' lanes. But Asda, Morrisons and many others have barely improved at all, and none have permanently broken their junk-pushing habits.”

“Unlike the government, we have no problem naming and shaming the worst offenders at the checkout. And we urge people to do likewise: to post their pictures, to do a simple audit of their local stores, and to hand in pass or fail cards at the till.”

“All retailers, including WHSmith and other high street stores, need to take a long hard look at their marketing practices and acknowledge that the time for such cynical promotion of sugary, salty, fatty products is over, for good.”

Ends

For more information / interview requests, please contact:

  • Steven Jenkins – the BDA Press Office on: 0800 048 1714 / s.jenkins@bda.uk.com / @BrDieteticAssoc
  • Malcolm Clark - Children's Food Campaign 07733322148 / malcolm@sustainweb.org / @childrensfood
  • Geoff Coleman - Public Health Birmingham 0121 3033501 geoffrey.coleman@birmingham.gov.uk @healthybrum

Notes to the Editor:

The Junk Free Checkouts campaign is encouraging people to use the resources available on the campaign website to help get their message across direct to the stores they shop in. Resources include

For more information about these resources and the Junk Free Checkouts campaign, see www.junkfreecheckouts.org

The Junk Free Checkouts campaign is launched by the British Dietetic Association's Dietitians in Obesity Management Specialist Group (DOM UK) and the Children's Food Campaign. The campaign is also supported by the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association and Slimming World.

The British Dietetic Association, founded in 1936, is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation's largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. www.bda.uk.com

DOM UK is a specialist group of the BDA and it represents dietitians working in obesity management. They also work in collaboration with others towards reducing the burden of obesity for individuals, the NHS and the wider health of the nation and economy. www.domuk.org

The Children's Food Campaign aims to improve young people's health and well-being through better food - and food teaching - in schools and by protecting children from junk food marketing. We are supported by over 150 national organisations and co-ordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. www.childrensfood.org.uk

In April 2012 the Children's Food Campaign published Checkouts Checked Out. The report found 'no change at the till' as most high-street supermarkets continued to promote and sell unhealthy snacks at the checkout, a decade after promises to reduce or remove them. It also found bad practices now spreading to smaller format stores and to non-food retailers, who feature sweets and chocolates in the queuing area, and do not offer healthy alternatives. The report can be downloaded from: http://www.sustainweb.org/publications/?id=212

DOM UK undertook a survey of almost 2,000 people in the Birmingham area, with the support of Birmingham City Council and Slimming World in June 2013. The headline results were:

  • 78% find having junk food at the checkouts 'annoying'. The main reason given for this is that junk food can be hard to resist at the checkout.
  • 83% have been pestered by their children to buy junk food at the checkouts and 75% have given into their children and purchased something due to being pestered.
  • Over 90% think that junk food at the checkouts contributes to obesity.
  • When asked what they would like to see retailers do, the highest response given was for all food and drink to be removed from the checkouts.
  • 56% would be more likely to shop at a supermarket if they banned junk food from their check outs.
  • Supermarkets blissfully ignorant – only 4% of respondents had complained, but 63% said they would complain if they knew how to do so.

Full results available at: www.domuk.org/files/1307%20chuck%20the%20junk%20survey%20findings.pdf

In July 2013 press reports offered competing versions of the Department of Health's commitment to junk free checkouts and other in-store restrictions on the marketing of high fat, salt, sugar items.

Grocer - Health minister rules out guilt lanes crackdown

Daily Mail - “supermarkets told to scrap guilt lanes”

In a survey of their customers after introducing one 'healthy-till' per store, Lidl found that 70% prefer using the junk-free till for their family food shopping. http://www.domuk.org/files/Healthy%20Till_trial%20extension.pdf

The British Dental Association's 'Make a meal of it' campaign aims to reduce the damage that is being done to the oral health of children across the UK by sugary and acidic food and drink, targeting particularly the consumption of such products outside regular meal times. Specifically, it seeks restrictions on the advertising, promotion and display of such products. www.bda.org/dentists/policy-campaigns/campaigns/makeameal.aspx

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  1. Shaun says:

    What happened to people having the right to choose what to eat? If I choose to eat junk food, that is my right, and it is nothing to do with the government or council. This is my body, my life, and I choose what I do with my body. Whether junk food is at a checkout or not, I choose whether to buy it or not.

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