Which? say supermarkets should offer healthier food promotions to help tackle obesity

Apples

Consumer group Which? says supermarkets should do more in the fight against obesity as research reveals more than half of the foods on promotion across six major supermarkets are ‘unhealthy’.

Which? Looked at data from price comparison site mySupermarket relating to special offers at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Ocado and Waitrose between April and June this year. Of the 77,165 promotions analysed, 53% were found to include ‘unhealthy’ products – foods that carried a red traffic light label to indicate high levels of salt, sugar or fats.

Alex Neill, Director of Campaigns and Policy at Which? says: “Everybody has to play their part in the fight against obesity and people want supermarkets to offer more promotions on healthier foods and yet our research found the opposite.”

chocolate bars

Sweet temptation

Mr Neill adds: “It is time for supermarkets to shift the balance of products they include in price promotions and for all retailers to get rid of temptation at the till by taking sweets off the checkout.”

The analysis also revealed that 52% of confectionery items were included in price promotions, compared to just 30% of fresh fruit and 34% of vegetables. In addition, 69% of soft drinks which carried a price promotion were in the higher sugar category – and therefore liable for the proposed ‘sugar tax’ levy.

bananas

Balanced diet “affordable”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability policy at the British Retail Consortium says of the claims: "Supermarkets offer great value in all the products they sell and it has never been easier or more affordable to choose a balanced diet."

cheese burger

The growing problem of obesity – and passing the obesity buck

Treating obesity and its consequences is said to cost the NHS £5.1 billion per year, with one consequence – type 2 diabetes – which carries a hefty £8.8billion cost to the NHS, responsible for swallowing almost 10% of the entire annual NHS budget.

Last Autumn the World Health Organization (WHO) published its European Health Report, which revealed that 59% of the EU population is clinically obese.

Earlier in 2015, WHO proposed the aforementioned controversial ‘sugar tax’ to tackle the problem of obesity, which has since formed part of the UK government’s long-delayed Childhood Obesity Strategy, yet to be finalised and passed through Parliament. However, experts argue that more legislation is needed to force food manufacturers to simultaneously develop healthier food products which contain less sugar, salt and fat if the obesity problem is to be effectively addressed.

Diane Abbott MP Shadow Health Secretary, who has been calling on the Government to do more to tackle childhood obesity for a number of years, says the government must take “real and urgent action” in order to avert a future public health crisis.

colouring book

In a statement issued last week she said: “Britain faces a child obesity epidemic” with one in five five-year-olds overweight or obese, a figure projected to rise to half of all children by 2020. According to NHS data, British children of primary school leaving age are currently the most obese in Europe, with a third of 10 and 11-year-olds in England now classed as overweight or obese.

Cutting budgets, not waistlines

Ms Abbott says the government, as part of its wider budget reductions, has cut £300million from local public health budgets, which includes funding for local health visiting teams that support and advise families with young children, child obesity programmes and school nurses – a move she has labelled a “scandalous false economy”.

Ms Abbott adds that she is “deeply concerned” after reading reports on leaked drafts of the long-awaited Childhood Obesity Strategy that suggest the government may have backtracked on its key pledges to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and the removal of a ban junk food at shop checkouts, said to be a result of lobbying by the food industry. She added: “We need real and urgent action from the government, not weak words to placate international food corporations.”

“The government’s strategy should be robust and should address education, advertising and tax. Government departments should not be starved of the funds to implement it. In the same way local authorities should be financed to provide adequate health visiting services for the nutrition and activity of children.

“The fight against childhood obesity is among the most pressing priorities for our NHS. Britain must avoid sleepwalking into the public health crisis now faced by the United States. To do this, we must prioritise the health of our children over food industry lobbyists.”

For more on understanding the food traffic light system, see our Live Healthy article.


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About the author

Georgie Fenn, writes most of our news articles and social media posts.