Major supermarkets are failing to communicate effective healthy eating messages to UK consumers despite growing concerns over obesity, according to a new report by the National Consumer Council (NCC).
The NCC’s latest ‘Short Changed on Health?’ report shows supermarkets rely too heavily on websites and magazines to provide consumers with advice on healthy eating and lack the qualified staff to answer queries in-store.
Shoppers who buy economy ranges are getting a particularly unhealthy deal, with most budget ranges containing significantly more salt and sugar than other products.
Despite commitments from retailers to reduce the amount of salt in their own-brand products, just under half of the 94 own-brand products surveyed met the Food Standards Agency’s targets on salt levels. Of 49 economy products surveyed, only 17 (35%) were within the recommended guidelines.
NCC chairman Lord Whitty urged supermarkets to behave more responsibly, saying "budget-conscious shoppers must not be shut out from eating healthily".
The NCC analysed the nutritional content of ten standard own-label products and their economy equivalents, ranging from tomato soup to pizza, cornflakes and crisps.
Sainsbury’s outstripped rival supermarkets to take the title as the overall top-rated supermarket in the NCC’s Health Responsibility Index, up from fourth position last year. It was followed in joint second by Waitrose and Tesco, with Marks & Spencer at number four. The Co-op, which was last year’s leader, slipped into joint fifth place with Asda.
Tesco currently holds the largest share of the UK food market with 31.4%, followed by Asda at 16.7% and Sainsbury’s with 15.9%.