Thursday, 19 February 2015

Thunder, thunder, Thunderclap: when a blog post hits the campaign trail*

Posted by Mark Welford

A nationwide viral campaign to remove junk food from supermarket checkouts has been launched on the back of the success of a post on this very blog.

The ‘Chuck out the checkout junk’ campaign was born out of a Fuse open science blog post, which described the ‘pester power’ difficulties faced by parents in supermarket checkouts, what supermarkets are or aren’t currently doing about it, and why they should be doing more in the midst of a growing obesity epidemic.

Written by Mel Wakeman, senior lecturer in nutrition and applied physiology at Birmingham City University and Fuse academic Amelia Lake, dietician and public health nutritionist based at Durham University, the post has received more than 500 views and sparked debate on Twitter.

Mel has now started a campaign using the social media tool ‘Thunderclap’ that has already reached close to 30,000 people.

Thunderclap will simultaneously post the health message on social media feeds
On the Thunderclap page Mel writes: “We are still in the midst of an obesity epidemic; poor diet is to blame for overweight and obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancers and more.

“As a nation we should be reducing much of the added sugar in our diet but we often need help to do this. Making positive changes to our diet is not easy; cutting down our sugar intake is difficult when it is present in so many everyday foods (like sweets and chocolate) and being constantly tempted to pick up confectionery at the checkout undermines much of our efforts to be healthier. Small changes can lead to big differences however, so let's ask more stores to adopt junk free checkouts.

Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury's Local and Iceland Foods as well as WHSmith and other non-food stores need to take more responsibility for the products they promote. Many stores have signed up to the Government's Voluntary Responsibility Deal but they could do so much more if they want to demonstrate they are truly committed to promoting healthier diets and improving public health.

“The evidence is irrefutable. Asking stores to replace confectionery with healthier foods will be a huge step forward in helping protect the future of the British public.”

Mel is also writing to the above stores, asking them to seriously consider this proposal.

Show your support

If you want to share your support for the campaign visit the Thunderclap page and click the red ‘support with’ buttons (via Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr).

“Let's make Britain healthier. Please remove all sweets from all tills and make EVERY store take responsibility.”

Thunderclap will simultaneously post the message above on your feed along with other supporters on 9 March when the campaign will ‘go viral’.

Still unsure? Below are six points that explain why this campaign is so important:

1. The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe: 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese.

2. More than half of men and women are at an increased risk of multiple health problems.

3. The level of childhood obesity is a huge concern. In the UK, 1 in 10 children are obese when they start school. By the time they leave primary school, nearly 20% of children are obese with a 75-80% risk of obese adolescents becoming obese adults.

4. According to the latest diet surveys, children and teenagers consume around 40% more added sugar than the recommended daily allowance; much of this coming from snacks and sweets. We are now seeing diabetes, high blood pressure and signs of heart disease in young children.

5. In 2014 Public Health England reported 12% of children under three have tooth decay and an average of three teeth in these children are decayed, missing or filled.

6. Obesity can reduce life expectancy by 8-10 years. This is equivalent to the effects of lifelong smoking.

*A headline for children growing up in the 1980s

Did you enjoy reading this post? If so, please vote for Fuse in the UK Blog Awards 2016 by clicking here


  1. Lidl now have dried fruits at the checkout, not sure if that's a win or not. Also since when are sweets and chocolate "everyday foods" - is that not the problem, rather than their sugar content ?? When I were a lad we had "Saturday sweets" and occasionally something on Wednesday if the mobile shop came.

  2. Dried fruit, although a concentrated form of sugar is a good source of fibre and nutrients when consumed in small amounts; certainly more nutritious than confectionery. The stores that have committed to removing junk are instead offering plain nuts seeds and crackers which is certainly a good step forward compared to what was previously displayed.

    I completely agree that sweets and chocolate being everyday foods is a significant problem. I also grew up with the 'Saturday Sweets' and they were something I really appreciated and looked forward to! These are treat items and therefore consumption should be occasional. I think the public's idea of what constitutes a snack needs shifting so that healthier items become the norm not the smallest component of our daily diet. This can only be a reality if sweets receive less focus and attention.