A campaign has been launched urging UK retailers to permanently remove unhealthy snacks from checkouts and queuing areas.

The Junk Free Checkouts campaign was launched this week by The British Dietetic Association’s, Dietitians in Obesity Management Specialist, Group (DOM UK) and the Children’s Food Campaign, and is calling for the Government to revisit proposals to ban junk food from supermarket checkouts.

The move follows the publication of a recent survey by DOM UK that found nearly 80% of shoppers believe the practice contributes to obesity. Two-thirds said they felt strongly enough to complain to the store, but only a few had done so, so customer views were going unheard.

“Unplanned calories from foods high in fat and sugar purchased at checkouts contribute towards poor diet and poor health, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which may lead to premature death,” said British Dietetic Association, obesity specialist Linda Hindle.

“Far too many retailers are unwilling to stop pushing unhealthy food at the checkout and queuing areas. It may be lucrative for them but, as our survey found, it is deeply unpopular with customers and nudges purchasing behaviour in the wrong direction. If retailers can’t act on their own, then we hope to see robust action from the government to tackle this problem.”

The nationwide survey of around 2,000 participants revealed that 78% of respondents said they found junk food at checkouts “annoying”. It also found 83% had been pestered by their children to buy junk food at the checkouts and 75% have given in to their children and bought something because they were pestered.

The Government, under its Responsibility Deal launched in 2011, received pledges from all leading supermarkets and food manufacturers to lower the fat and salt content of food products and adopt clearer labelling.

The Department of Health, however, is looking at a new voluntary code of practice on the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt under the Deal.