UK retailers Asda, Morrisons and Iceland have been singled out by the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) as the “worst offenders” for allegedly targeting children with junk food and undermining healthy eating.

In a report, ‘Checkouts Checked Out’, published this week, the UK health campaigner claims the three retailers are “undermining parents efforts to feed their children healthily”, by displaying junk food on four out of five checkouts in their stores.

The Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose were also criticised for making families “have to queue past displays of unhealthy snacks to reach the tills”.

The report noted most supermarket branches and high street stores “routinely promote unhealthy snacks” at their checkout tills and in their queuing areas, “despite several having promised a decade ago to reduce this unhealthy marketing practice”.

It also noted that in many cases, junk food was “positioned at children’s eye level, prompting children to pester their parents for sweets, crisps and soft drinks”.

As a result, the CFC has called for junk food to be “chucked off the checkouts once and for all”.

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“Impulse purchases at the checkout can add several hundred unplanned calories to a family shopping basket,” said CFC spokesperson Sophie Durham. “Supermarkets claim to be responsible retailers, yet they continue to put their profits ahead of families’ health. They should stop prompting pester power and help parents by removing promotions of sugary, fatty, salty and calorie-laden snacks and drinks near the checkouts, especially those placed within easy reach of children.”

In response to the claims, a spokesperson for Asda told just-food: “We thank the Children’s Food Campaign for this report. We sell a wide range of products on our checkouts from batteries to bags for life.”

Iceland declined to comment on the report.

A spokesperson for Morrisons said: “Lots of our customers like to pick up a treat at the checkout. Confectionery at the tills is clearly not aimed at children. We’re working hard to help parents make healthy choices for their children. In support of the Government’s Responsibility Deal we are launching a new range of healthy products and are committed to a minimum of 50 promotions each week on fresh fruit and vegetables.”

A statement from Waitrose said: “Research carried out last year with our customers told us that they would like greater visibility of our seasonal ranges. As a result, we have introduced checkout displays which are designed to highlight some of our seasonal and new products, including food and non-food items. Recently featured items have included healthy products from our new ‘love life you count…’ calorie controlled range, as well as seasonal confectionery.”