MAJOR supermarkets have failed to remove sweets from checkouts, despite pressure from the healthy eating watchdog Safefood.
The requests by Safefood came after a survey showed three-quarters of consumers believe the presence of junk food at checkouts contributes to obesity.
Safefood has written to the chief executives of the five main supermarket chains in Ireland to ask them to support customers trying to make healthy choices by introducing sweet-free checkouts.
However, its chief specialist in nutrition, Marian Faughnan, said it was disappointed that so far none had given a firm commitment to do so.
"This issue has been around for years, but it has never been more important to get action on it given the high rate of childhood obesity... this is a simple step that would really help," she said.
Safefood's survey found that half of shoppers find it hard to resist junk food like sweets and crisps at the checkout, and one-third of shoppers regularly buy it on impulse.
Some 73pc believe having junk food at checkouts contributes to obesity, and 29pc said they'd be more likely to shop at stores where it is banned from the tills.
Safefood's latest TV ad urges parents to say no to children's requests for junk in the supermarket, because this is easier than repeatedly saying no at home.
Senator Feargal Quinn, who years ago banned sweets from the checkouts in the Superquinn chain he founded, urged other supermarkets to do the same.
"With one in every four children on the island of Ireland overweight, there is potential for Irish supermarkets to play a role in helping parents to make healthier choices for their children," he said.
Tesco said that it shared Safefood's concerns about children eating more healthily and 60pc of its stores did not sell sweets at the checkout.
"In our other stores we ensure that at least half of the checkouts are sweet-free," it said in a statement.
Musgrave, which operates the SuperValu chain, said it recommended to its franchise holders who own individual stores that they should offer customers the choice of using sweet-free checkouts and a number of them did.
"Sweet-free checkouts are available in the 24 Superquinn stores that were renamed as SuperValu this week," it said.
Aldi said it was committed to encouraging customers to eat healthy products and was currently trialling a "healthy till" merchandising format in the UK.
"Aldi Stores Ireland will be closely monitoring this trial with a view to implementing it in Ireland if successful," it said.