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An audit of NHS health centres has discovered that people overwhelmingly bought unhealthy snacks and drinks on hospital premises, leading researchers to call for radical restrictions on junk food on NHS premises.
According to a report by the audit’s authors, three-quarters of the best-selling snacks in hospital catering areas were rated as unhealthy, along with half of the most popular cold drinks. This is despite hospitals taking steps in the last few years to promote healthier eating. In fact, only five of the 20 top selling snacks were found to be healthy.
Health psychologists from the University of Aberdeen refrained from proposing an outright ban on junk food, but did suggest that caps could limit the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content of individual items, and that hospitals should use behavioural ‘nudges’ to encourage people to buy healthier foods.
Scottish hospitals had to ensure that at least half of the products they sold met ‘enhanced nutritional standards’ by March 2017. NHS England began to offer cash incentives to hospitals a few months later if 80 per cent of their snacks had fewer than 250 calories. The report suggests that such measures are not working on their own.