Health warnings on till slips to fight obesity

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Shoppers who purchase too many fatty snacks could receive personalised health warnings from Government on their till slips.

Public Health England is currently in the development stages of this project.

There has been a massive increase in obesity levels in the UK. During 1993, 15% of the population was classified as obese. This increased to 25% in 2011.

In the early part of this year, the National Obesity Forum forecast that half of the nation may be obese by 2050.

The forum urged health officials to introduce awareness campaigns, similar to those used for smoking, to try and curb this problem.

Public Health England’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said the warnings to be placed on till receipts are a way of making use of behavioural methods to prompt people to choose more healthy items.

He said that four or five of the big corporate, such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl, that have millions of people on their databases will be used to reach consumers.

He stated that the algorithms would be offered to the large supermarket chains to allow them to personalise it to their customer database. This will allow them to offer health advice to their customers.

Mr Selbie said that this should not cost the customer more, but should help them make healthier choices.

Sources have confirmed that the large retailers were in talks with officials about the most effective methods to combat obesity and till receipt warnings were being discussed.

The source stated that a shopper would go to the till and the receipt would calculate the nutritional value or could be a healthy option for the next shopping expedition.

Tam Fry, based at the National Obesity Forum, supported the plans and said that the government has failed badly at tackling obesity, but supermarkets may be able to assist by tagging healthy messages onto till receipts. Customers may be more prone to believing information offered by the stores they are loyal to than from ‘nannying’ politicians. The forum said it was an idea that is worth trying if the wording will improve the behaviour of shoppers.

A Tesco spokesman said that they are constantly looking at different methods to help their customers make healthier choices, but no current plans are in the pipeline to use data on till receipts.

A spokesperson from Sainsbury’s said that the retailer already has a number of health and wellness initiatives, and is currently in the forefront as regards nutrition labelling. The group said that they are in regular contact with Public Health England, however they are unaware of any discussions on this topic.

Last year PHE asked for more than one million obese children to be provided with personalised get fit programmes to prompt them to lose weight.

Official figures indicate that one third of children in the age group between two and 15 are obese.

Image Credit: Dan4th Nicholas

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