Supermarkets should place junk food out of the eye-level of children to shake their “pantomime villain” reputation and help reduce obesity, a group of MPs has claimed.
A new report urges retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda to "take a leading role" in helping to solve the crisis by removing tempting products from the reach of infants.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood is also calling on supermarket chains to remove sweet displays aimed at children and introduce discounts on healthy alternative foods.
Its Chair Steve McCabe said: “Supermarkets are often seen as the pantomime villain in a national battle against obesity and associated serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
“We show that supermarkets can take a leading role in helping to solve the obesity epidemic.”
Other suggestions in the report, titled Healthy Families: The Present and Future Role of the Supermarket, include stores using their logos and leaflets to promote a good diet and giving healthy snacks “child appeal” with labelling.
The group also wants to see increased awareness of supermarket tactics that push consumers towards unhealthy food options.
The report notes there is a “price promotion bias” towards junk food, encouraging shoppers to consume confectionery, cakes, crisps and sugary drinks.
The group is calling for such offers to be restricted, with supermarkets offering promotions on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables instead.
Away from the aisles, the MPs are calling for teachers to receive training in food education and urge the Government to provide more information about the “psychology of shopping" and meal planning.
The report’s author Helen Clark says the suggestions are a “pragmatic” way supermarkets can help to tackle the obesity crisis.
The former Labour MP for Peterborough said: “Supermarkets should certainly drive healthier consumption and so should the Government.
“The Government must work with leading supermarkets to provide advice in-store on how to consume a diet that is consistent with the Eatwell Guide in a low-income environment.
“Policy makers should also provide more information via health and education campaigns about the psychology of shopping and the importance to the family of meal planning.”