We all love them, and if you are as old as I am you are likely to have grown up with the brightly coloured, extruded party snacks affectionately known in this country as “Cheezels”. I love these tasty little treats as much as you do, memories of childhood birthday parties and all things 80”s triggered at the mere thought of these little morsels, but my 7 year science degree still tells me that there are few foods as nutritionally nasty as the humble Cheezel. Packed with colours, flavours and a hearty dose of saturated fat, Cheezels are usually featured on my “worst supermarket foods” list which is why I was horrified to see them on sale at Woolworth stores last week for just 95c a box.
Now, before you tune out under the heading of “diet Nazi” I am the first to agree that there are times when we all eat foods that are not the best for us nutritionally and there is nothing wrong with this. At the end of the day we are all in control of our own destiny when it comes to our body weight and our health long term and the food decisions we make on a daily basis are no one’s business but our own. The issue I have with this situation is that there is a big difference between choosing to take home a packet of potato chips each week and one of our biggest supermarket chains actively encouraging their customers to buy a food that is of extremely poor nutritional quality by selling it at an exceptionally cheap price as well as giving such a product enormous exposure by placing it on eye catching stands at the front of the store. And it was not just one Woolworth’s store, from my research I am led to believe that Cheezels were on sale last week for 95c in numerous city stores throughout the state.
Whether the government will admit it or not, our two largest supermarkets have enormous power when it comes to influencing the health and nutritional intake of the country. If Woolworths sell Cheezels for 75% less than the cost of a punnet of blueberries, which do you think people buy? Similarly, supermarkets do not advertise 2 for 1 deals on chocolates, chips and biscuits because sales do not increase, what our supermarkets choose to discount, advertise and locate in prime store position absolutely influences what we buy when we visit the stores.
Given that 60% of Australian adults and up to 30% of Australian children are overweight or obese, aggressively marketing high fat, low nutritionally quality foods in such an overt fashion are completely irresponsible. It is ignoring the health battles of Australians, it is putting parents in the challenging situation of having to deal with the kids demands for these foods and it is leading us to eat much greater amounts of bad fat and calories than we would have if the foods where not placed directly under our noses, costing next to nothing.
Wollies, it is not the Australian peoples fault you bought too many Cheezels and now you have to get rid of them so please think about the health of your customers and stop trying to pass the crap onto us. Oh, and lift your game altogether when it comes to your 2 for 1 deals which encourage your customers to buy more soft drink, biscuits, confectionery and chocolate and your advertising campaigns that portray you as holier than thou, ignoring these other blatant opportunistic tendencies. You know you could use your power to really help improve the health of the Australian people, so why not give that a go, and leave the Cheezels out of it.