Supermarkets urged to stop promoting unhealthy foods

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Supermarkets have been seen by many, particularly older Australians, as somewhat of a saviour throughout these strange days, but a new study reveals they may be devils in disguise.

Promotion of junk foods and comfort foods, particularly in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, is encouraging poor dietary habits, say researchers from Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre in the Institute for Health Transformation.

The Inside our supermarkets: Assessment of the healthiness of Australian supermarkets report found that soft drinks, chips, chocolates and lollies get more shelf space, bigger discounts more frequently than healthier options and prominent placement at end-of-aisle displays and near checkouts.

Around 80 per cent of end-of-aisle displays for food and drinks contained unhealthy items, making it almost impossible to pay for groceries without being exposed to junk food and drinks.

Unhealthy food was present at 90 per cent of all staff-assisted checkouts.

Food on special at checkouts was 7.5 times more likely to be unhealthy than healthy.

Shelf space allocated to some unhealthy food and beverages (compared with fruit and vegetables) in the most disadvantaged areas was nearly 10 per cent higher than in the least disadvantaged areas.

“The recent rush on products during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the central role of supermarkets as the main source of food for most Australian households,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Gary Sacks.

“We also know that up to 35 per cent of what Australians eat is considered unhealthy. If we are to improve Australian diets we need supermarkets to play a greater role in encouraging people to select healthy options.”

The report said supermarkets could do this by providing healthier checkouts containing no chocolate and soft drinks, replacing unhealthy items with healthy food and drinks at end-of-aisle displays, giving less shelf space to unhealthy items and offering fewer discounts on unhealthy food and drinks.

Of the more than 100 supermarkets throughout Victoria that were audited, 26 were Woolworths supermarkets, 26 were Coles, 26 Aldi and 26 independent supermarkets.

“Aldi stores were less likely to promote unhealthy foods at end-of-aisle displays and checkouts compared to the other major chains, but there was little difference between Coles and Woolworths on key indicators of in-store healthiness,” said Assoc. Prof. Sacks.

“A major concern was that, on some measures, supermarkets in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas were less healthy than those located in less disadvantaged areas.

“People living with socioeconomic disadvantage have higher rates of diet-related diseases, are less likely to eat healthy, nutritious food, and are more likely to over-consume unhealthy food.

“The extent to which unhealthy food is pushed at us shouldn’t depend on the suburb in which we live.

“Encouragingly, the two healthiest stores in the study were both independent stores with abundant fresh food, and few promotional displays for unhealthy food and drinks. That demonstrates that a healthier supermarket environment is possible.

“We need all Australian supermarkets to set higher standards relating to food promotion.

“If supermarkets and the processed food industry don’t take action to improve their practices, then government should be ready to step in to ensure the supermarket environment encourages more healthy choices.”

Have you ever noticed how much unhealthy food is promoted compared with healthier options?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 43
  1. 0

    Hah ! Yup 🙂

  2. 3

    They’re worse than that, Drewbie, they play music in the background that creates an atmosphere making people think about buying more. They put the expensive products at eye level to make it easier to spend your money. They make it hard to walk to the back of the shop where the bread and milk is by filling the shelves with brightly coloured items which will attract the unwary shopper. They use colour consultants to advise on the best colours to use to make shoppers stop and look. It’s called marketing, Drewbie, and is used everywhere in the western world. They are not responsible for an already over-stretched public health system, they don’t force people to buy goods, they are merely offering goods at a price that is reasonable for shoppers to make their choice.

  3. 1

    Drewbie – Yes that’s what we need MORE regulation.

    How about call China and ask them how it’s done, maybe North Korea, they can give you some insights to world of regulation.

    Adults should be able to make prudent decisions about their purchases, we don’t need government regulation stating what can be seen here and there or what can be advertised.

  4. 0

    Here here! 🙂

  5. 1

    Jim, this can all be prevented if nutritional education began at home and in the schools.

  6. 0

    It’s called freedom of choice.

  7. 0

    Janus, the marketing departments use top psychologists with manipulative skills to exploit consumers. They have been on children for decades.

    Those children were harvested on rubbish and grew into adults who have children. Hence all the allergies that exist today and the booming EpiPen industry. MacDonalds is a global icon, Asian food is not healthy all natural flavors are drowned in sauces with toxic ingredients.

    Peoples’ taste buds have changed and they have become addicted to the unnatural.

  8. 0

    A plate of brown rice, dried legumes with seasonal vegetables are cheaper than processed food.

    It’s a matter of holding back the hunger pains and cooking up a storm.

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