Special offers fuel obese shoppers, says Cancer Research UK

Shoppers who fill their supermarket trolleys with special offers on food and drink have more than a 50% increased chance of being obese, according to the new Paying the Price report from Children's Food Campaign member Cancer Research UK. 

Copyright: Cancer Research UK

Copyright: Cancer Research UK

The new Cancer Research UK report, Paying the Price, which is based on shopping data from more than 16,000 British households, found that people whose shopping baskets contained around 40-80% of goods on special offer are more likely to be overweight or obese.

The research also found that almost half of all chocolate, crisps, popcorn, and savoury snacks were bought on promotion. Bargain-loving shoppers bought 30% less fruit, and nearly 25% fewer vegetables. The people who purchased the most items on offer bought 25% more food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar, equating to approximately 11 extra unhealthy items a month, per typical household of 2 adults and 2 children.

The study reveals that average levels of obesity were 30% higher among people from households which bought the most food and drink on special promotions compared to those who bought the least. Obesity is associated with increased risk of 13 different types of cancer, including bowel, kidney, liver, pancreatic and breast cancers.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Promotional items offer people a wealth of tempting yet unhealthy food and drink choices when doing their weekly shop. With cut-price deals on things like chocolate, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks, it’s no surprise that people who buy more on promotion have a greater likelihood of being obese.

“With young children frequently being the ones who suffer from the effects of these purchases, introducing restrictions is important for their future health. We know that more than one in five enter primary school overweight or obese, yet the number worsens to around one in three when they leave.”

Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “The government’s proposed 9pm ban on junk food ads is a step forward in fighting childhood obesity. Now we want to see restrictions on price promotions for unhealthy food and drink items, as well as those strategically-placed at checkouts. This will help families to make healthier choices. 

“There isn’t one magic fix for the problem, but removing these incentives to buy unhealthy food is key to changing it.”

The study drew on shopping data from 16,148 households from Kantar Worldpanel.

The Government is currently running a public consultation on introducing restrictions for certain types of promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), including those that encourage multiple purchases (eg. 3 for the price of 2, or 3 for £5), and also displays of these products in prominent locations in store entrances, aisle ends and checkout areas (and their equivalent online).  The consultation is open until 6 April 2019. 

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Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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