Deep discounting is a popular practice by many of our favourite supermarkets, including the big 4, Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The nation’s favourite snacks and unhealthy treats are constantly on offer in superstores, whether it is a buy on get one free offer, a weekly rollback or money off if you buy a certain amount, it is safe to say that our supermarkets do little to encourage people to eat healthily, or any encouragement they might do is then counteracted by cheap chocolate, discounted cakes and mega multipacks of crisps. With obesity in the UK on the rise and definitely a serious problem today, ministers have warned that in order to tackle childhood obesity, tough new measures must be introduced – and this includes tackling the deep discounting, now.
The government published an obesity strategy last August, but it has since been said that this does not go far enough. The strategy makes no mention of targeting discounts and price promotion in supermarkets, nor does it make any mention of kerbing advertising on sugary food and drink, either. This could be a key factor contributing to obesity and one that needs to be addressed. There was also calls for products to show their sugar content in easy to understand teaspoons, which would prevent companies misleading people. This was also ignored. Crucially, the report also doesn’t cover any measures that might be taken to improve education when it comes to diet or give local MP’s any power to tackle the environmental factors that contribute to obesity.
One measure that was introduced was for companies to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks that are targetted towards a child audience. Whilst this is important, it was not introduced as compulsory, and there have been no penalties introduced to penalise companies that don’t comply. There are now calls for the government to take stronger action, as soon as possible. The fact that some companies are complying with new measures is now putting them at a disadvantage competitively, with companies that don’t bother advertise what is really in their food/drink. It has got to the point where industry representatives themselves have called for one rule for everyone. Ministers have not just called for true advertising to be in supermarkets but also in cafes, restaurants and takeaways so that nobody is misled there either. At the moment, the restrictions are only limited to products that have a significantly high sugar content, but there are calls for restrictions to also be placed on products with high fat and salt contents, which also contribute to bad health and obesity. Voluntary controls have had little effect up to now and MP’s are now calling for compulsory rules to be put in place. At the moment, wherever you go in supermarkets, you are within reach of an unhealthy product at a discounted price, even if you nip in to buy something non-food related, you are faced with chocolate, crisps, sugary cereal bars and sweets available to buy quickly and conveniently at the checkout. These type of displays encourage unhealthy, impulse buying. MP’s are calling for an outright ban on these kinds of practices as it is doing nothing to help the current obesity crisis that the NHS is dealing with.
Whilst the new tax on sugary drinks is a great start and is definitely a great step in the right direction, there is still so much more that the government should be doing but isn’t. MP’s have accused the government of missing vital opportunities to tackle childhood obesity by not taking strong enough action. To defend the actions of the government, public health minister Nicola Blackwood has said that the system that is currently in place seems to be working but would like to point out that they have not rejected or ruled out any further changes that need to be made to the plan should the current plan cease to make a difference.