Keeping Junk Food Away From the Register

Shopping just got much easier in Berkeley.

Nov 17, 2020

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When you are waiting to pay for your groceries at your local supermarket, do you ever peruse the items in the checkout lanes? Are you ever tempted to buy the snickers bar or bottle of coke you see? If you are like most people, you will cave to the pressure to impulse buy and add the candy or soft drink to your cart.

Now the city of Berkeley as part of a larger health initiative is going to become the first city in the US to stop allowing the sale of unhealthy junk food in the checkout aisles according to CNN. This rule will go into effect in March 2021 but enforcement will not begin until January 1, 2022.

The “Healthy Checkout Ordinance” was unanimously approved by Berkeley’s city council at a zoom meeting on September, 22 2020 and requires that all food stores over 2,500 square-feet (232 square-meters) to sell only healthy food items near the checkout lanes. This will affect over 25 stores in Berkeley including Whole Foods, Safeway and Walgreens.

“Placement of unhealthy snacks near a register increases the likelihood that customers will purchase these foods and drinks when willpower is weak at the end of a long shopping trip,” City Council member Kate Harrison said at the city council meeting.

“It's not a ban, it's a nudge," Harrison said. "Stores can still sell candy and soda, just not at your child's eye level in the checkout.”

The new policy restricts food with 5 grams of added sugar and 200 milligrams of added salt;  which is what chips, soda and candy contain, according to Berkleyside, from the checkout aisles. Gum, candy, and soft drinks with artificial sweeteners are also included in the restrictions.

The new ordinance Harrison said at the city council meeting, “is really good behavioral economics, it facilitates better choices for consumers but does not limit what they can buy.”

Snack food manufacturers might not be too happy about this new rule, “That’s because they spend a lot of money to place their products in the checkout aisles,” Ashley Hickson, a senior policy associate at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a national consumer advocacy organization based in Washington DC told Berkeleyside.

CSPI began working with the city in 2017 and has six similar campaigns across the country but Berkeley is the first to adopt the junk food restrictions. The city already initiated a soda tax in 2014. “Berkeley has been a leader in progressive health policies for a long time,” Hickson said.

Other cities have been legislating to support the health of its citizens. The sale of food with trans fats was banned by Tiburon, California in 2005,  New York City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco, California in 2008. And then it snowballed. Hopefully Berkeley will be the first of many cities to ban junk food from the registers.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.