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Supermarkets Expose Children to High Calorie Foods at Checkout

Update Date: Jan 27, 2014 10:04 AM EST

Childhood obesity is a serious health issue for several nations throughout the world. Early onset obesity can lead to severe cases of adult obesity, which increases one's chances of developing diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart conditions. In order to combat obesity, researchers have studied different levels of exposure and ways to prevent them. In a new study, the research team from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) reported that young children are constantly exposed to high calorie foods at the checkout lines in supermarkets.

In this study, the medical student researchers examined data that was gathered in March 2012. During that time, the Untied Kingdom government had passed the "Responsibility Deal," in which supermarkets agreed to promote healthy eating for their consumers. The researchers focused on three supermarkets, which were Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda as well as some convenience stores from the inner cities.

The researchers found that around 90 percent of the food products that supermarkets placed right in front of the checkout lines all fell under the very unhealthy category. The researchers had categorized the foods based on the Food Standards Agency. The options were high in fat, sugar and salt. Based on previous research that found that children between the ages of three and five tend to pester parents the most when it comes to buying food, the researchers believe that the placement of these foods could be detrimental for young children's health.

"The checkout is an area which all shoppers must pass through, so displays of highly desirable calorie-dense foodstuffs are an unavoidable exposure," Dr. Jason Horsley, Lecturer from ScHARR, said reported by Medical Xpress. "Children are a significant market for retailers of processed foodstuffs and budgets dedicated to advertising to children have grown exponentially in the last three decades. Youngsters are often naïve to sophisticated marketing techniques and they influence parents' purchases through pester power."

With obesity rates increasing in the UK due to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, the researchers believe that more needs to be done to prevent children from becoming obese. The supermarkets, which agreed to "support and enable...customers to eat and drink fewer calories through actions such as product/ menu reformulation, reviewing portion sizes education and information, and actions to shift the marketing mix towards lower calorie options," need to work harder.

The study was published in the Journal of Public Health.

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