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Checkout aisle food policies may change diets, study finds


Policies that limit what types of food can be shelved in the checkout aisles of grocery stores may successfully curb junk food intake in shoppers, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Jean Adams from the University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues.

A number of UK supermarkets have introduced policies on what food should and shouldn't be displayed at their checkouts, with stores pledging to provide healthier checkout foods. In the study, researchers used data on food purchases that had been recorded since 2013 by more than 30,000 households participating in a UK commercial household purchase panel, as well as data spanning 2016 and 2017 from a 7,500 person UK purchase panel. Information from nine large UK supermarket chains--six of which had introduced checkout food policies between 2013 and 2017 and three of which acted as controls--was included in the datasets.

Introduction of checkout food policies was associated with an immediate 17.3% reduction in purchases of small packages of sugary confectionary, chocolate, and potato crisps per four week span. One year following introduction of such a policy, the researchers found a 15.5% reduction in packages of these common checkout foods purchased per four weeks. Additionally, data on what people eat "on-the-go" rather than only what they bring home revealed that in 2016 and 2017, 76.4% (95% CI: 48.6 to 89.1) fewer small packages of sugary confectionary, chocolate, and potato crisps were bought from stores with checkout food policies.

"Because this is not a trial, we can't be sure that the changes in purchases we recorded are due to checkout food policies. Nor can we know if there were any other changes in what people bought or ate" the authors say. "However, these policies could help people to eat better."


Research Article


JA, MW, MS, and AJA received funding for this work from the Public Health Research Consortium (grant no. PHPEHF50/22;, a Policy Research Unit, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, UK. JA and MW receive salary funding from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Public Health Research Centre of Excellence (grant number MR/K023187/1; This grant is administered by the UK Medical Research Council, but funding is from a consortium of funders: the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UKCRC. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Ejlerskov KT, Sharp SJ, Stead M, Adamson AJ, White M, Adams J (2018) Supermarket policies on less-healthy food at checkouts: Natural experimental evaluation using interrupted time series analyses of purchases. PLoS Med 15(12): e1002712.

Image Credit: ArtsyBee, Pixabay

Author Affiliations:

Centre for Diet and Activity Research, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Institute for Social Marketing, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom

Institute of Health & Society and the Human Nutrition Research Centre,

Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

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