Retail must take more responsibility for obesity, warns food watchdog

Written by Tom Freeman on 16 June 2017 in News

Food Standards Scotland report: radical steps are needed on price promotions

Supermarket choices - Holyrood

Retailers must take action to help people make healthier choices when shopping, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has said.

The body recommended supermarkets should be subject to regulated standards on the promotion of healthy food.

New research by the University of Stirling for the food watchdog revealed how influential store layout, product placement and display are on customer behaviour.


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This has encouraged people to buy food high in sugar, salt and saturated fat, it said, with price promotions particularly effective at encouraging impulse buys.

Scotland has persistent problems with obesity which can lead to a number of serious illnesses and conditions including heart disease and cancer. Currently 65 per cent of Scottish adults are overweight or obese.

Dr Gillian Purdon, FSS Senior Dietary Advisor said: “We believe it is vital that action is taken to change the imbalance of in-store promotions in favour of healthier food and that consumers have the clearest possible information to make informed choices. 

“The report supports Food Standards Scotland views and recommendations for the need to extend sugar tax beyond soft drinks, to reformulate products to reduce sugar fat and salt, to resize portions, address less healthy food promotion and to provide clearer consumer information on products in both the retail and out of home sectors.

“This report will help us to develop new approaches to improve the balance of food offered and promoted by the retail sector.  

“It is clear that a combination of measures will be needed overall to enable healthier eating.  Regulation of promotions of high fat, salt and/or sugar food and drink within retail stores and out of home premises should be taken forward as a priority.”

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation said the report ignored existing efforts to tackle the problem by the industry.

The body’s head of public affairs John Lee said: “This report seems to ignore the significant efforts of retailers to actively promote healthy products in-store and the efforts of manufacturers to reformulate products and reduce calories.

“Additionally, extending the sugar tax will make no real or lasting impact on diet-related problems. Improved food education and awareness should be the priority rather than constantly shifting the responsibility for population health onto retailers.”

The Scottish Government's long-awaited obesity and diet strategy is due before the end of the year.

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