Kevan Christie: do we need to eat more chocolate at Easter?

The last thing we need is an excuse to eat more chocolate, writes Kevan Christie.

Health campaigners are now asking consumers to step away from chocolate this Easter. Picture: Emma Mitchell
Health campaigners are now asking consumers to step away from chocolate this Easter. Picture: Emma Mitchell

As the Easter egg season enters its third month in Scotland, shoppers are being urged to beat the rush and snap up a “bargain” – buy two get two free of the chocolate delights.

With over a month to go until Easter Sunday (it’s 16 April this year) supermarkets are offering beleaguered parents the chance to buy themselves a rare moment’s peace at around £3 for four medium-sized chocolate eggs.

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This comes despite a recent survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK’s Scale Down Cancer campaign which reveals that seven out of ten Scots support a ban on supermarket promotions of sugary snacks and junk food.

Promotions now account for around 40 per cent of all expenditure on food and drinks consumed at home and campaigners are urging the Scottish Government to restrict multi-buy discounts on foods high in sugar, fat and salt.

It’s worth repeating that around two-thirds of adults in Scotland and 28 per cent of children are overweight or obese, with sugar and fat-loaded food a major cause.

In this climate the last thing the country needs is an excuse to turn what is supposed to be another major religious occasion into a Willy Wonka sponsored chocfest.

Consumers are now being asked to put down their Christmas selection boxes, step away from the fudge and consider the next landmark eating binge – Easter – with chocolate eggs having first appeared in the shops on Boxing Day.

It would be nice to say this was a new development and harks back to a gentler, more Christian time, when Easter Sunday was spent rolling real eggs down a hill and a single chocolate egg was but the rarest of treats – but I am a child of the 1970s and remember a kid in our street got 23 one year.

Clearly, the supermarket giants aren’t listening to public concern and promotions are still being geared towards less healthy food and drink.

Conversely, some stores are now offering children a free banana – that’s if they can make it to the fruit isle having previously ran the gauntlet of chocolate, cheese puffs and doughnuts – strategically positioned at the front of the store.

This smacks of tokenism and is too little too late.

A Which? Study carried out on the major supermarkets between April and June last year found that more than half (52 per cent) of confectionery was on offer compared to around a third of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The increasing perception among people who live in socially-deprived areas is that it’s difficult to eat well and healthy food is more expensive than junk. Obesity is more often than not linked to poverty with young adults in the 16-24 age group who are classed as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) particularly at risk from cancer-related behaviours and more likely to have an unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) and to not participate in sport. However, steps are being taken to combat the sugar menace which is bad news for chocoholics. Food giant Nestle has announced they are to cut the sugar content of some of their well-known brands including Toffee Crisps and Smarties by 10 per cent. This may take the form of simply shrinking the size of the product which answers the age old question of – why do chocolate bars seem smaller than you remember?

It’s definitely a positive step and comes after the “shrink-flation” with the size of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Toblerone and Maltesers falling as the price of ingredients rose.