The obesity and overweight rates in Europe have reached epidemic proportions and are continuing to rise, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
The report revealed that in the European Region, 59% of adults and almost one-in-three children are overweight or living with obesity. The European Region has a higher obesity rate than any other WHO region, except the Americas.
” Although the countries of our Region are diverse, each one faces challenges ,”, according to Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge (WHO Regional Director for Europe).
The UK was not an exception. The country had the third-highest adult obesity rate of the 53 countries that make up the WHO’s European Region. One in seven deaths in the UK is due to poor diets, and 8% of government healthcare spending is due to obesity-related diseases.
While the statistics are grim, Dr Kluge stated that there are still reasons to be optimistic. “We can reverse the trend of obesity in Region ,” by creating more supportive environments, encouraging investment and innovation in healthcare, and building strong and resilient health systems.
The role and importance of retail
This is why Share Action and ATNI, a benchmarking initiative for nutrition, have published research that examines the UK’s food environment.
The ATNI UK Retailer Index 2022 compares the performance of 11 major UK food retailers across eight topics described as ‘critical to consumer health’. These topics include product formulation, pricing and placement in stores, media and on-pack advertisement, labelling, infant nutrition and stakeholder engagement.
The retailers that the Network assessed account for over 80% of grocery spending in the UK, a fact that ATNI said gave them both a ‘huge opportunity’ and ‘responsibility’ to make healthier food more available, accessible and affordable.
” With two out of every three pounds spent on food going towards supermarkets, these companies have an important influence on the country’s health,” Lily Roberts (Senior Campaigns and Research Officer at ShareAction) stated.
“For supermarkets to hold the line on delivering affordable healthy products is more relevant than ever, with extra threats to food security posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine,” Inge Kauer, Executive Director, Access to Nutrition Initiative, added.
The best – and worst – performers on healthy food environments
Of the 11 retailers assessed by ATNI, nine of those included in this Index took the opportunity to share additional data throughout the research process. Researchers said this is evidence that UK retailers are serious about better nutrition.
How does that translate in store? The ranking shows that there is a wide disparity in performance among different retailers. Tesco, which recently committed to increasing sales of healthier food products from 58% to 65% of all sales by 2025 – following a shareholder resolution filed by ShareAction – tops the table with a score of 5.2 out of 10. The supermarket giant is followed closely by Sainsbury’s (4.8), and ALDI UK (4.3) Ocado and Iceland scored just 0.6 and 0. respectively.
“The ranking shows there is much room for improvement across the sector regarding nutrition-related topics, as the average score was just 3.3 out of 10,” ATNI said.
Some examples identified by the assessment include:
- Lidl GB and Sainsbury’s are the only two compa