Retailers hit back at obesity charge

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has hit back at a report from the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) that accuses supermarkets of helping to fuel an obesity epidemic by “aggressively” promoting processed foods.

The Green, Healthy and Fair report by the Government-funded SDC warned that healthy eating messages were often “drowned out” by promotions for unhealthy foods.

But BRC spokesman Richard Dodd says it is “absolutely wrong to suggest that supermarkets are not promoting fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy eating ranges” and that the SDC report has some “bizarre contradictions”.

Dodd points out that the report claims that all multi-buy promotions fuel over-packaging and waste but simultaneously says that healthy foods are not being promoted enough. He adds: “It’s far from clear what the author of the report is suggesting.”

SDC commissioner Professor Tim Lang says the Government will be unable to resolve the issues of climate change, obesity and waste on its own and the report calls for greater co-operation between the Government and the big supermarket chains. It says differing food labelling schemes are causing customer confusion and proposes that supermarkets be forced to adopt a single system rather than use their own versions.

The SDC report, published last week, also warned that the impact of transport linked to supermarkets was not being properly tackled but Dodd says it is a “myth” to suggest that supermarkets encourage car use by developing too many out-of-town sites.

He says retailers always locate close to where people live and work, meaning the most popular locations are in the suburbs.

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