Supermarkets urged to stop promoting unhealthy foods

Do supermarkets need to be more responsible for Australians’ dietary habits?

devil in a supermarket aisle

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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    COMMENTS

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    Jim
    18th May 2020
    10:11am
    Again we take personal responsibility away from consumers and blame providers, if people can’t make the right choice for themselves and their families, then who is at fault, it’s not as if there isn’t enough information out there, sometimes I think the media has to invent things to give themselves some purpose.
    Drewbie
    18th May 2020
    11:17am
    Jim; you are right in some respects to " personal responsibility " re - food choice during the weekly shop. But please, don't give supermarkets a free ( get out of gaol ) pass on this either. The dominant supermarkets use the old trick of deliberately sneaky, silent subliminal product placement & discounting. They do the in-store research, this ensures greater sales at checkout.

    It should be legislated " mandatory conduct " that supermarkets be forced to abide by regarding this issue. It's a no-brainer. Healthier food options/choices over time, lead to much healthier diets & people. That in itself would & does significantly alleviate an already over-stretched public health system & subsequently faster throughput re - elective surgery, etc, + saving governments huge sums that could & should be diverted to much needed better public infrastructure maintenance & new projects.
    Horace Cope
    18th May 2020
    11:40am
    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.
    Greg
    18th May 2020
    11:41am
    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.
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:15pm
    Jim, this can all be prevented if nutritional education began at home and in the schools.
    Jim
    18th May 2020
    2:30pm
    Sorry guys, but I don’t agree, there is enough information out there telling people of the tricks that supermarkets get up to in order for them to sell higher priced products, or less healthy products, it’s up to the consumer to decide what they want to buy, everyone is on social media, I don’t buy it that people don’t know what they are doing when they buy rubbish, it’s irresponsible on their part if they buy over priced unhealthy products, it’s time to take responsibility for their actions. To me it’s no different to someone going out and buying a $60,000 car when a $20,000 car does exactly the same thing, it’s their choice, they obviously watch the ads on tv and convince themselves that’s what the need, I don’t have a problem with people having their own choice, just don’t blame others for the choices we make. Easiest thing is make up a list of what you want and don’t deviate from the list, it’s called free will. There are many temptations out there, so who do we blame if we are tempted and act on it?
    Triss
    18th May 2020
    3:05pm
    I'm with you, Greg, legislation masquerading as protecting the vulnerable, lower income families from being browbeaten by supermarkets. Next total lockdown legislation for over 70's masquerading as protecting the vulnerable elderly from being overcome by any virus that may be around. Then comes forced vaccinations every year and the list can go on. Dangerous.
    Jim
    18th May 2020
    3:33pm
    I agree The Thinker, I left school 56 years ago, in my final year at school I decided to do home economics ( cookery ) we were taught about nutrition and the benefit of fruit and vegetables in our diet, not everything we were taught then applies today, things change over time, I know when my daughter went to school she was also taught about nutritional food and practises it to this day, me not so much, but that’s my choice.
    Hoohoo
    19th May 2020
    11:25am
    All I can say is that all the comments above presume that marketing is directed to adults, who should be educated and know what are healthy options.

    But I hate to tell you, it's often aimed at busy mums with kids in tow (& creating mayhem often), so pester power wins. Have you ever had a stand down in the supermarket aisle with a tantum on legs? If you have, you will know - you just want to get out of there ASAP to get home, unpack those groceries and get the dinner on. You don't have the time or patience for arguments.

    By the time she gets to the checkout she's probably thinking she deserves a little chocolate herself, (oh look, there's some right there!) and wine. It's called self medication.

    It's all well and good for us older (and retired) folk to know we have a choice to eat healthy, but please remember, some people are so time poor it directly affects what they buy. It also explains why so many families base their meals on processed food. Convenience = unhealthy choice.
    Lescol
    18th May 2020
    10:12am
    Are not adults to blame for what goes into the basket? Why do we need more control over our life?
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:20pm
    Why don't you ask Bill Gates?

    Part One

    https://www.bitchute.com/video/OB8GxX5Wqm4y/

    Part Two

    https://www.bitchute.com/video/iLbYtCpDWFJR/
    Janus
    18th May 2020
    10:14am
    What? A business trying to maximise profits? Isn't that a legal requirement?

    Whether the business operates in accordance with decency, morality, or "the right thing" is less than relevant. Our economy is based on greed, and it is entirely up to the purchaser to make their own decisions. If the purchaser is too dim, poor, unwitting, uninformed, misled, or otherwise unable to make a healthy choice is a matter for "natural selection" to sort out.

    That's apparently how our government thinks, and that's how the majority voted. Get over it.
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:33pm
    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.
    et54
    18th May 2020
    10:24am
    I find Woolworths worse at this than Coles! Because of dietary issues I refer salt free foods. My preferred option is no longer available at Woolworths but is available at Coles!
    Sceptic
    18th May 2020
    12:17pm
    It's called freedom of choice.
    gerry
    18th May 2020
    10:31am
    The person sits in a University cloud and thinks what shall I write about today ?"to justify my 250,000 a year ,,,,,,Read the Conversation all trying to tell yo that they are worth it
    NANNY STATE is soeasy to write about
    greenie
    18th May 2020
    4:10pm
    You see through Conversation too Gerry!. Good on you.
    Thought I was the only one!
    Dabbydoos
    18th May 2020
    10:32am
    Income is a big decider in this issue, healthy foods, fruit and vegetables are expensive. Unhealthy foods are normally " on special" . I would prefer to eat fresh and healthy but on a pension find this hard to do. I am well aware of what is good and bad food, but my purse does not stretch to the " good foods"
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:35pm
    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.
    cupoftea
    18th May 2020
    10:35am
    They can put their chocolates anywhere i will still find them
    heyyybob
    18th May 2020
    11:10am
    Hah ! Yup :)
    Rosret
    18th May 2020
    11:43am
    Here here! :)
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:36pm
    A cup of unsweetened cocoa can end it for you.
    Jezemeg8
    18th May 2020
    10:58am
    Once again we have a 'Big Brother' article. I raised 3 children and said NO to them as appropriate, including when they wanted lollies, soft drinks etc that were outside of my budget and certainly not on my shopping list! There have always been lollies etc at checkouts BUT it is still the shopper who puts them in their basket, they can still say NO! I think it's unfortunate that so many modern parents have lost the ability to say that word, and their children will suffer in future as well.
    Hoohoo
    19th May 2020
    11:39am
    I agree, but these days the parents of young children were children of the Dr Spock "let children do as they please" theory, so they are also victims of marketing, much more so than us older ones. They've never learnt self-discipline (like some of us) and they never learnt about the benefits of delayed gratification.
    Retiring Well
    18th May 2020
    11:02am
    I just write a list before I leave home and just buy what's on that list. Don't even notice the junk food and most is in aisles I never go into as well.
    The Thinker
    18th May 2020
    12:37pm
    Eating before you shop destroys all temptations too.
    heyyybob
    18th May 2020
    11:08am
    Of course most Aussies, especially those over 40, are fully aware what is good for us in the way of what we eat !! Why else would we have spent thousands of hours watching a TV telling us what to eat, buy, have. desire. dream about ?? Of course, we could get in our car, catch a bus or even use our two legs and go visit a park, beach, neighbour, friend, borrow a neighbours dog for an hour or even talk on the phone to a relative INSTEAD of watching TV whilst stuffing junk food into our bodies. Yeah, nah easier to let the media tell us what we know and blame the stores ;) *sigh
    Rosret
    18th May 2020
    11:45am
    So true.
    Horace Cope
    18th May 2020
    11:15am
    What part of the word "NO" does the writer of this article not understand? Another nothing, negative article from YLC. We shop at Aldi and Woolies and manage to eat a meat and three veg meal every day from goods bought at those outlets. We occasionally lash out and buy some nice treats to have as well as the healthy meals because we have a choice and can say "NO" if the product is not to our liking. The choice is up to the individual.
    Franky
    18th May 2020
    11:15am
    It's a sad fact that in a so called free capitalist society profit comes before anything else like health and wellbeing. The largest profits are made by non foods, junk food, which allows those companies to do their high profile advertising around the world. Education in our schools should include healthy eating and living as well as how a capitalist free market works. But then of course our government is ruled by the big corporations so there is no chance of that. It's up to each individual to wake up and inform themselves.
    Eddy
    18th May 2020
    12:25pm
    I have stopped listening to these so-called experts. they change their recommendations so often, what is unhealthy one month is okay the next. Actually I think they are more likely spouting their own prejudices than actual 'health' information. Haven't these people got a useful job to do?
    When I read the preamble I wondered what the supermarkets were now doing to make them "devils in disguise". It seems they have not changed from what they did before and this is just a re-run of countless stories previously published on the same subject.
    wicked
    18th May 2020
    12:38pm
    Nothing new here - this has been highlighted time and time again....we are adults, free to make choices - whether good or bad. I am sure that if some "people" had their way, all so called unhealthy food would be banned and we would be fed nutritious food capsules - one a day for the rest of your poor, sorry life.
    Horace Cope
    18th May 2020
    12:49pm
    I note that a couple of responders have advocated that schools play a role in nutritional education. It annoys me that teachers are asked to take over the role of parents whenever anything of a social nature arises. A child drowns and people want schools to teach swimming; a young person is killed in a car crash and people want schools to teach driving, a child is rude to elders and people want schools to teach manners. All of these things are the responsibility of parents, not teachers. People are also complaining that students are leaving school with an inability to read, write and deal with numbers and I wonder if too much time is allocated to things that should be a parent's responsibility and not enough time on the traditional 3R's.
    Jim
    18th May 2020
    2:36pm
    Well said
    Hoohoo
    19th May 2020
    11:55am
    How can a parent teach their child how to behave properly when they've never learnt themselves?

    I agree with you about the burden on teachers, but what is school for if it's not to teach life skills (easily as important as the three R's, and more so for students who can't or will never seek higher education)?

    We need to be directing more resources to public schools for more life skills teachers. I'd say the majority of students from private schools have already been educated in many life skills from their parents. But mental health should be taught to all students, though I had issues BECAUSE my mental health clashed with Catholic dogma, which was forced down my throat.
    Bundabergian
    18th May 2020
    1:18pm
    Where things are is of little importance to me, I can find what I want and know enough not to be swayed by things in full view.
    What is more important is the relative prices. The things that people on low incomes can afford. Compare pies, biscuits, cake, high carb items, etc. with fresh fruit and good quality meat/fish. Here is an example, at our local supermarkets I pay extra to have tinned fruit in juice with no added sugar, the cheap version is in syrup!.
    I know someone on a low income who eats a lot of two minute noodles. They are cheap and filling. When I suggested some veggies he says he cannot afford them.
    BTM
    18th May 2020
    1:54pm
    My wife worked in a supermarket for many years, the distributors of junk food products pay very well to have those prime spots at the end of the aisles. Hard for the owners to say no to such incentives.
    etc1
    18th May 2020
    2:36pm
    I'm in my 70s and supermarkets did nothing but stress me out more. They weren't helpful at all, only profits for them. On line shopping was a joke, always out of stock on items you want so they can substitute you with crap they can't sell. Don't get me started on delivery costs and price gouging too. Disgraceful.
    Argus
    18th May 2020
    7:38pm
    Your negativity and whinging is enough to stress anyone out.
    Hoohoo
    19th May 2020
    12:04pm
    That's not helpful, Argus.

    I agree with etc1 about online shopping and how out of stock items are substituted with crap they can't sell. The only time I ever did it (about 5 years ago, while holed up after face surgery), that is exactly what happened.

    Plus, they said in an email that if I spent a large amount ($150?) then it would be delivered for free. So much was out of stock that the total ended up under $150 and I was charged for the freight anyway. That'll never happen again.
    SuziJ
    18th May 2020
    3:08pm
    The first thing stores can get rid of at the checkouts is the soft and 'energy' drinks -there's plenty of research done into the effects of these drinks on both children and adults, and the results are very scarey. Water, yes, but the rest should be restricted to 18+ purchasers.
    JB
    18th May 2020
    3:49pm
    As long as the store can make a dollar they don’t care !
    Thoughtful
    18th May 2020
    3:59pm
    I have always loathed supermarkets - and I blamed bending to put items into the trolley and taking them out again for my bad back. ( Probably pushing them around as well! ) However, while working and with a young family the time saving of a one stop shop was huge. Fast forward to a pandemic. The major supermarkets worried me being so crowded. I have re-discovered the local supermarket. Excellent social distancing and far fewer people. Fresher and local produce. Prices not too bad at all and pretty good when I realised I actually ate everything I bought ( no wastage ). Same with my local butcher. And both within bike riding distance - I purchased a basket for the back of my bike. Now I get my exercise at the same time as doing my shopping and feel like I have rejoined the world.
    heyyybob
    19th May 2020
    1:42pm
    Gudonyer. Thoughtful indeed :) Like that about the use of the bike also. Agree about the 'local' and we weighed up the advantages there too. Not quite as far as to go the SUPERmarket, (saving in fuel over a month) easier parking, everything that I NEED is available there, less crowded, less angst, and prices/quality quite acceptable :) Win/win hey ? Cheers.
    SuziJ
    24th May 2020
    12:34pm
    Thoughtful, my nearest local supermarket is Coles, Woolies, Aldi, IGA & Discount Grocery Warehouse (old Shepparton Cannery in Lavington). There's no other shops between me & the 'locals'. They are all concentrated within a 200 - 500m radius of each other.

    As for a bike - no thanks. Haven't been able to ride one since I had a buster on Christmas day 1968. Had to go on holidays with lots of bruises & some scrapes.

    I certainly consider what I put into my basket. If I can't afford it, it doesn't go in.

    I'm glad that my local supermarket has just had a 'makeover' and in their wisdom have put the milk in the middle of the store near the freezer aisle, making it not so far a walk to the bread aisle, which hasn't changed, so now you only need to walk half of the store to get your staples like milk & bread. The only downside is that they've put the butter at the other end of the store where the milk used to be.
    Viking
    18th May 2020
    5:54pm
    Let's face it this government isn't going to do anything about it nor should they. I thought that part of adulthood was personal responsibility, remember that old fashioned word?
    Hoohoo
    19th May 2020
    12:13pm
    I agree with you entirely regarding adults exercising personal responsibility.

    But have you ever had to do the weekly shopping with children? Every week for years? If so, you'd know your life isn't your own for these years and you're too damned time poor and hassled to play God's police 24/7 or make healthy meals from scratch. The only parents I know who make healthy meals from scratch are those who don't do paid work outside of home.
    heyyybob
    19th May 2020
    1:53pm
    Quiite agree Viking. If you are lucky enough to have a partner (when you have (hyper)active children, leave them with him/her at home OR in the car, with their 'baby sitters' (phones) and him/her. Then, whilst everyone else is watching TV, doing homework, absorbed on their 'babysitters' make THE meal. You could also teach him/her how to make one whilst you spend 'quality' time monitoring the kids/teaching them how to make a simple dessert, do homwork or a short lesson in other 'life' skills, doing a good job making it fun :)
    Hoohoo
    20th May 2020
    12:41pm
    And therein lies the problem for those who have to shop with/for children, or even those who are time poor because they have children, work outside of home, are expected to do the shopping and the cooking of the evening meal. They simply take (unhealthy food) shortcuts because it's either that or a nervous breakdown.

    I often see these people (some are men) on their way home from work, with or without their kids, doing junk/processed food shopping, rushing around like people possessed. They are time poor, day in and day out. And they need wine.
    Viking
    20th May 2020
    2:51pm
    Hoohoo teach your kids there is no spare money for unnecessary items, it doesn't hurt kids to know that there's no spare money and things are tight. Get them involved in writing the shopping list. As a free range kid, I remember in a greengrocers asking my Dad if we could buy a coconut, he said no. So I asked my Mum who said okay. I will never forget the row when we got home and I still recall it nearly 70 years later. Contrary to what the modern day do gooders say, I've never had mental illness or anxiety as a result, Im quite resilient, I don't quake as I shop in the fresh food area but I do buy healthy food, still shop wisely and share the cooking at home.
    heyyybob
    19th May 2020
    1:55pm
    .
    Justsane
    19th May 2020
    4:35pm
    Go to America. Huge cities are left without a supermarket. Shopping centres may have numerous shoe shops, no supermarkets. It must leave many people food insecure, not able to buy fresh food at all. Las Vegas boasted two Walmarts (not in the shopping centres, though - way out in the sticks). Any small Perth suburb would have one or two supermarkets - and in the town. I found myself wondering whether I was dreaming - whether Australians were really so well catered for, not being able to believe that Americans were deprived of such an essential service . We are lucky, lucky, lucky! I don't take supermarkets for granted any more. I must admit it is probably true that more junk food is sold in poorer suburbs. This would reflect people's spending habits - and yes, they should be encouraged by the supermarkets to buy more fresh produce. Children should also be taught about the different food groups and what they do in the body. We were taught this in school (in England) when I was about twelve.
    Hoohoo
    20th May 2020
    12:50pm
    Great name, Justsane (or is that Just Sayin'?) I think you hit the nail on the head - education. Learning how to cook healthy food.

    But I recall in Home Economics (compulsory at age 12 in my Catholic girls-only high school), all we ever cooked were desserts, sponge cakes, pies, scones, pikelets, etc. It was all about baking sweet stuff, not meals or learning about nutrition or diseases caused by bad nutrition.
    Incognito
    24th May 2020
    6:57pm
    Most eating problems stem from childhood, if you are fed junk you are most likely to keep eating it. My son was grown up on healthy food and even though he has tried some junk he just does not enjoy it, most of the time he complains how salty it is or how sweet. Manufacturers are just out to make money no matter what poisons they produce. The worst is the soft drink makers, mixing water with a bit of flavour, sugar and other ingredients to make you addicted. Supermarkets are just selling stuff people demand, if it did not sell they would not have it on the shelf.


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