The report 'Short changed on health' (2006) rates the UK's leading supermarkets against each other, showing big differences between the supermarkets in terms of how they promote healthy eating to their customers, and make healthier food affordable. It is one of a series of 7 reports published by the National Consumer Council, working with Sustain and the Food Commission, that also measured and reported on supermarket progress across several years, 2004 to 2009. Links to all 7 reports are provided on the "more information" page.

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Short Changed on Health: How supermarkets can affect your chances of a healthy dietOver the period 2004 to 2009, Sustain and the Food Commission worked with the National Consumer Council to develop and conduct seven national supermarket surveys, and to develop policy recommendations, on how well the major supermarkets help their customers to buy healthier and more sustainable food.

The reports also rate the UK's leading supermarkets against each other, showing big differences between the supermarkets in terms of their relative progress on health and sustainability issues. This page shows one of the reports. Links to the others are also included below.

The rating retailers surveys and policy reports demonstrate how much effort public interest groups have put in over the years, to encourage, cajole or sometimes force supermarkets to improve their products and practices. Some supermarkets have responded, and some ground has been gained. Witnessing this glacially slow progress, Sustain remains opposed to voluntary approaches. Supermarkets operate in a highly competitive market and 'selling more' remains the dominant driver - to the detriment of people's waistlines and the environment. In this situation, it is difficult to see how we can shop our way out of serious problems caused by over-consumption, alongside weak regulation, lame educational initiatives, misleading food labelling, and a sprinkling of greener products sold at a premium.

(Note: The National Consumer Council was re-named as Consumer Focus)


National Consumer Council 'rating retailers' surveys on health

National Consumer Council 'rating retailers' surveys on food sustainability

Original research that informed the supermarket sustainability reports

  • 2005: Greening supermarkets: Do supermarkets help consumers buy sustainable food? [more information]
  • 2007: How can food labelling contribute to a healthy and sustainable food system? [more information]

Other useful links on supermarkets and sustainable food include:

  • An ambitious project called Race to the Top, sponsored by Defra, to provide an assessment of supermarket performance against independently audited sustainability indicators. Race to the Top ended prematurely in 2004 when several supermarkets pulled out (download 320kb PDF final report).
  • The recent Competition Commission enquiry into trading practices within the supermarket sector;
  • The Sustainable Development Commission's 2008 review of supermarket ethics and sustainability, with the report Green, Healthy and Fair.
  • Many of Sustain’s members have a range of concerns about supermarkets. See Tescopoly for more details.

Short changed on health: How supermarkets can affect your chances of a healthy diet
27pp - 2006 | 570Kb

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Supermarkets, health and sustainability: Sustain has worked in particular with the Greening Supermarkets, Healthier Supermarkets and Race to the Top initiatives to stimulate changes in supermarket policies and practices.

27pp - 2006
570Kb

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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