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Should Supermarkets take responsibility of our Nations Health?

Should Supermarkets take responsibility of our Nations Health?

Supermarkets should concentrate their price promotions on healthy food to assist in the battle against obesity, according to consumer group Which?

Analysis of 77,165 promotions across the major UK supermarkets found 53% of them were put on less healthy products.

Confectionery was much more likely to be on special offer than fresh fruit and vegetables, Which? said.

The supermarkets’ trade body said a balanced diet was now more affordable than ever. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability policy at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Supermarkets offer great value in all the products they sell and it has never been easier or more affordable to choose a balanced diet.”

The Which? analysis covered deals found in six major retailers – Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – between April and June. It classed less healthy food as any product with a red traffic light label for fat, saturates, sugars or salt – unless an item scored a red for fat and a green for saturated fat – and automatically counted fresh, unprocessed fruit and vegetables as healthier.

It found that 52% of confectionery was on special offer, compared to 30% of fresh fruit and 34% of vegetables.

Also on promotion, the results suggested, were 69% of soft drinks that would fall under the higher sugar band category, with more than 8% sugar, of the government’s proposed sugar tax.

Alex Neill, director of campaigns and policy at Which?, said: “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.

“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.” Some major supermarkets have already carried through with this, such as Tesco who now offer junk free tills. However, that hasn’t stopped them from offering deals on unhealthy products throughout the rest of the store.



Supermarkets suggest there are high levels of competition, and promotions, along all the supermarket shelves. They also suggest that with a relatively even mix of promotions across all types of food, it did not follow that people would choose unhealthy food based on the promotions offered by supermarkets.

Paul Mills-Hicks, Sainsbury’s food commercial director, said: “Since 2014, we have been working hard to remove promotions and invest money in regular lower prices. In doing so, we have made hundreds of fresh and healthy products affordable all of the time and our fresh produce sales are growing as a result.

“We have also taken a big step by calling on the industry to remove multi-buys, which we believe will lead to healthier diets and reduce household waste.”


So who’s responsibility should it be to make our nation healthier? We are currently on a downward trajectory in terms of our nations health. A new report this week shows that as a nation we massively underestimate the amount of food we consume on a daily basis. The worrying trend is that most people believe they are eating healthier than they are. This could be down to the advertising and marketing of products by supermarkets and fast food outlets. I saw a product being sold the other day as high protein, when in fact it contained only 3g of Protein in the product. The vast majority of the product was carbohydrates and a large portion of that was sugar.


The Government has started to intervene in the nations current weight crisis by bringing in the sugar tax. Some critics some this is the state going too far and trying to make money off the crisis, whilst on the other end of the spectrum some say the tax doesn’t go far enough. Should the Government now turn its attention towards the big players in the supermarket market to utilise their influence?

Ultimately we believe the responsibility has to in some way come down to the consumer. It is up to YOU to take responsibility of your own health. However, you need the tools to be able to do this for you and your family. Education is key to this, and that must be led by the Government. School initiatives must be introduced teaching children about health and nutrition. Supermarkets must also now start to lead the way in promoting healthy food, in my opinion. The public can take responsibility but, they need supermarkets to guide them in the right direction. Finally us as health professionals must use our voice to promote a healthy lifestyle through exercise and nutrition. With the NHS in financial meltdown it is now more important than ever for us all to team up and start to reverse this current trend towards obesity.

author: Matt Williams


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