Berkeley Bans So-Called Junk Food from Checkout Aisles
Last month, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the nation to ban so-called “junk food” from grocery checkout aisles. Food with more than 5 grams added sugar or 200 mg sodium will be banished from the checkout aisle. The ordinance takes effect next year, with enforcement set to phase in starting in 2022.
“Grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet will no longer be allowed to sell unhealthy food and beverages at the checkout line, and instead will be encouraged to offer more nutritious food and drink,” the San Jose Mercury News reported. “Gone will be chips, candy bars, sodas and other sweetened beverages.”
The ordinance impacts around two-dozen stores in Berkeley, including Safeway, Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens, and two independent grocers, along with all of their customers.
The ordinance was supported with the help of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit that’s long advocated for government intervention to restrict or alter people’s food choices.
“The Center for Science in the Public Interest has created a suggested list of products that meet the criteria of the ordinance,” the ordinance notes. Sure enough, CSPI says traditional checkout items—such as bubble gum, candy bars, Slim Jims—will yield to “fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, whole grains, and chewing gum and mints with no added sugars.” (Note the photo accompanying the CSPI post doesn’t show a checkout area but does appear instead to show a sterile grocery aisle…in Italy.)
Beyond sugarless gum or snack bags of nuts or seeds, most of the items don’t seem checkout-realistic. Legumes? As in, like, a can of beans? Yup.
“Fresh, canned, or otherwise hermetically sealed dried fruits, vegetables, or legumes with no more than 5 grams added sugars,” the ordinance recommends.
The impetus for the ban appears to be a belief on the part of Berkeley lawmakers that parents are powerless over their 5-year-olds.
“Cheap, ready-to-eat foods high in salt, saturated fat, and added sugars dominate checkout aisles, where shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases and where parents struggle with their children over demands to buy treats at the end of a shopping trip,” the ordinance itself declares.
“We’re not saying you can’t have these goods,” says Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison. “We’re just saying they’re not going to be right at the eye
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