Supermarkets have imbalance in healthy and unhealthy foods, study shows
According to a study by public health institute Sciensano, the average Flemish supermarket has a poor balance of healthy and unhealthy foods in its aisles, De Standaard reported on Friday.
The study was carried out in 55 Flemish supermarkets belonging to Carrefour, Delhaize, Aldi, Lidl and Colruyt. For every 10 m of food categorised as unhealthy, the researchers found an average of 3.6 m of healthy food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
"No supermarket comes off well, although the differences between the chains are striking," Sciensano researcher Stefanie Vandevijvere told De Standaard. German discounter Aldi offers the most fruit and vegetables, both fresh and frozen, with almost 4.5 m of healthy food for every 10 m of unhealthy items.
Carrefour comes off worst, with 2.2 m of healthy food for every 10 m of unhealthy food. At Delhaize it is 2.7 m, at Lidl and Colruyt 3.2 m and 3.4 m respectively.
Worse in deprived areas
There is another risk, Vandevijvere warns: "Our research clearly shows that the ratio of healthy to unhealthy is worse in areas where lower socio-economic classes live." It is in these areas that the risk of obesity is highest: by the age of 10, at least 32 per cent of children in deprived areas are overweight, twice as many as elsewhere.
The study also found that the most unhealthy foods are displayed in prominent places: at the checkout or on promotional stands at the start of the aisles. In almost all supermarkets, 80 per cent of the items at or near the checkout are food, and almost 80 per cent of these are highly processed foods such as chocolate or sweets.
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