Shops are a vital part of health drive
Deputy city mayor Rory Palmer's plan to hold a summit in Leicester to discuss healthy eating is a good, practical way of tackling a complex issue. Councillor Palmer intends to call together representatives from the food industry, as well as market traders and smaller shops to discuss what can be done to encourage people to eat healthier diets.
There are many simple things which retailers can do to help improve things. Selling fresh fruit and other healthy snacks and displaying them in prominent areas near check-outs would help to give people alternatives to chocolate bars and crisps, for instance.
And stocking more foods in general which are low in salt, fat and sugar, would help make it easier for people to have a better diet.
Inevitably, when this sort of thing is discussed the cry of "nanny state" goes up. However, what we are talking about is simply giving consumers more of a choice so that they are able to opt for healthier alternatives.
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If people want to eat fatty and sugary foods – and most of us do from time to time – that is obviously their choice. There should just be other things available.
Obviously there is also a commercial aspect to this and we are not expecting retailers to stock products which nobody wants to buy.
However, many people desperately want improved diets, both for themselves and their families, and providing more products which meet this demand could be good for business.
As we have said in this column before, national Government also needs to take more action over this issue, particularly in terms of food labelling.
The single measure which would produce the greatest result would be a simple system which gave customers a health rating for each product and which was universally applied.
Something similar should also be used in restaurants, takeaways and cafes, giving people information on fat, sugar and salt content, as well as the total calories.
These measures would allow consumers to make more informed decisions, and would act as an incentive for the food industry to make products healthier in general.