Retailers urged to follow Woolworths’ lead and remove sweets from checkout points

Woolworths has removed sweets from its check out aisles in 60% of its stores, giving preference to healthier snacks. File photo.
The health department has urged retailers to follow Woolworths’ lead and remove sweet treats from their checkout points‚ saying consumers need all the help they can get to make healthier food choices.

Approximately two thirds of women (68%) and one third of men (31%) in SA are overweight or obese‚ according to the 2016 South Africa Demographic Health Survey released by Statistics SA last week‚ placing them at risk of diseases like diabetes and hypertension. One of the key contributors to weight gain is unhealthy food.

Addressing parliament‚ the health department’s chief director for health promotion‚ nutrition and oral health‚ Lynn Moeng‚ said Woolworths had removed sweets from its check out aisles in 60% of its stores‚ and called on its rivals to follow suit.

The government was moving to tax sugar-sweetened beverages and reduce the salt content of processed food‚ but further regulation was needed‚ she told MPs on parliament’s portfolio committee on health. Consumers needed clearer information on food labels‚ and the department was considering whether to regulate food advertising to children‚ she said.

The department published draft regulations proposing controls on advertising to children several years ago‚ but was still weighing up whether to push ahead. Global evidence suggested industry self-regulation for controlling advertising children was not effective‚ she said.

South Africans were ill-informed about the dangers of being overweight and the risks posed by eating too much processed food‚ she said.

“We hope educating our communities will encourage them to demand healthier options from retailers and restaurants‚” she said.

Tamar Kahn – Tiso Black Star Group/BusinessLIVE

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