News Children's Food Campaign

Supermarkets challenged to go junk free at the checkout

launch of new Children's Food Campaign and British Dietetic Association campaign to get junk off the checkouts for good

Dietitians and health campaigners challenge supermarkets to go junk free at the checkout

  • Survey finds 78% of people dislike junk food being sold at or near the checkouts.
  • Asda and Morrisons again named as worst offenders.
  • Shoppers encouraged to rate their local supermarket checkout.
  • Supermarkets challenged to make permanent commitment to junk free checkouts, not just short-term trials.

​Junk Free Checkouts campaign

The British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) Dietitians in Obesity Management Specialist Group (DOM UK) and the Children’s Food Campaign are launching a new campaign (on Monday 16 September 2013) to urge supermarkets to act on customer concern and permanently remove unhealthy snacks from checkouts and queuing areas.  The campaign, Junk Free Checkouts, is also supported by the British Dental Association and Slimming World.

DOM UK’s recent nationwide survey found that nearly 8 in 10 shoppers were unhappy with the sale of sugary or high calorie food and drink items at checkouts. Almost all the parents surveyed said they had been pestered by their children to buy junk food at the checkouts, and most found it difficult at that particular moment to say no. Two-thirds said they felt strongly enough to complain to the store, but only a few had done so, so customer views were going unheard. 

Results included:

  • 78% find having junk food at the checkouts ‘annoying’.  The main reason given for this is that junk food can be hard to resist at the checkout. 
  • 83% have been pestered by their children to buy junk food at the checkouts and 75% have given into their children and purchased something due to being pestered.
  •  Over 90% think that junk food at the checkouts contributes to obesity.
  • When asked what they would like to see retailers do, the highest response given was for all food and drink to be removed from the checkouts.
  •  56% would be more likely to shop at a supermarket if they banned junk food from their check outs.
  • Supermarkets blissfully ignorant - only 4% of respondents had complained, but 63% said they would complain if they knew how to do so.
  • Asda and Morrisons named as worst offenders.

The Junk Free Checkouts campaign ( aims to give shoppers a number of easy ways, both in store and online, of highlighting what is being sold at checkouts and in queuing aisles, and pressing the case for change at the till. The campaign comes amid conflicting signals from the Department of Health (England) about the scope and strength of a new voluntary code of conduct on the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt, which is currently being drawn up by the Government in consultation with the food industry.

Speaking on behalf of the British Dietetic Association, obesity specialist Linda Hindle said:

“Unplanned calories from foods high in fat and sugar purchased at checkouts contribute towards poor diet and poor health, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which may lead to premature death. Eating sugary or acidic food and drink also directly contributes to tooth damage. Although dental decay is completely preventable, one third of 12 year old children have a filled or extracted tooth, a sure sign that the rot of poor diets is already setting in.”

“Far too many retailers are unwilling to stop pushing unhealthy food at the checkout and queuing areas.  It may be lucrative for them but, as our survey found, it is deeply unpopular with customers and nudges purchasing behaviour in the wrong direction. If retailers can’t act on their own, then we hope to see robust action from the government to tackle this problem.” 

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said:

“Since our Checkouts Checked Out report in 2012, a few supermarkets (including Co-op and M&S) have responded by displaying more healthy snacks near the till; and Lidl has even temporarily trialled ‘guilt-free’ lanes.  But Asda, Morrisons and many others have barely improved at all, and none have permanently broken their junk-pushing habits.”

“Unlike the government, we have no problem naming and shaming the worst offenders at the checkout.  And we urge people to do likewise: to post their pictures, to do a simple audit of their local stores, and to hand in pass or fail cards at the till. All retailers, including WHSmith and other high street stores, need to take a long hard look at their marketing practices and acknowledge that the time for such cynical promotion of sugary, salty, fatty products is over, for good.”

For more information about  the Junk Free Checkouts campaign, see

Published Monday 16 September 2013

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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