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Retailers at fault for making America fat


While hunger relief organizations are quick to point out that one in six American’s suffer from “food insecurity,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest is deriding retailers’ for contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The CSPI contends the merchandising practices of the nation’s retailers – rather than a lack of self-discipline on the part of consumers – are making Americans fat. Putting aside the role of personal responsibility in lifestyle choices, CSPI is of the opinion that Americans are powerless against retailers’ efforts to sell them sugary drinks, fatty foods or salty snacks.

“In this age of diabetes and obesity, it’s unethical for retailers to push people to buy and consume extra calories that will harm their health,” said CSPI senior nutrition policy counsel Jessica Almy. “Food stores should set nutrition standards for the foods at checkout and non-food retailers should get out of the junk-food business altogether.”

The group arrived at its determination after studying the checkout aisles at a wide variety of supermarkets and non-food retailers. It found that 90% of the food options for sale were candy, energy bars, chips, cookies, and other junk foods, and 60% of the beverage options were for soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Researchers characterized only 8% of the food items as “healthier,” and just 2% of foods as actually “healthy,” such as nuts and fruit. Their assessment of drinks for sale at standard checkout aisles revealed that 19% were water, 15% were diet soft drinks, 5% were ground coffee and tea bags, less than 1% were juice and none was milk.

The study was conducted among 30 retailers representing 14 different store types in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, including supermarkets, such as Giant Food, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Safeway, and non-grocery stores, such as CVS, Dollar Tree, Office Depot, Old Navy, RadioShack and Ace Hardware.

“Americans have a hard enough time maintaining healthy weights without retailers sabotaging their efforts,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “It’s bad enough that supermarkets display soda and chips to prompt unplanned purchases at checkout. But why are so many stores pushing candy bars on people buying towels, toys, or kids’ clothes?”

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