THE Co-operative Group has been congratulated on its initiative to shelve confectionery away from the tills in its stores.
At a Health Select Committee meeting at the House of Commons MPs also applauded the society's decision not to advertise products high in salt, sugar or fat during children's TV programmes.
David Croft, the Group's Head of Co-op Brand/Technical, said it had taken the decision after examining research in Sweden, where advertising aimed at children is banned.
He said: "We felt that because of long-term concerns over the way diet is set at an early age this was an opportunity to influence that and reduce the advertising pressure that is brought to bear on children.
"We thought it would be appropriate for a consumer organisation to be involved in something like this. At the same time we decided not to use cartoon characters on our products."
Susan Bromley, Marketing Development Manager for the Co-op Group, also attended the meeting, which had 11 MPs on the committee, including Labour/Co-op members Doug Naysmith (Bristol North West) and Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff Central).
Mr Owen Jones told executives from Tesco, Asda and the Co-op that there was "widespread dissatisfaction" with food labelling and suggested introducing scheme that would simply describe foods as low, medium or high in fat.
David Amess, a Conservative MP, asked David North, Director of Government Affairs at Tesco, if the supermarket had "any responsibility in terms of obesity" or a "moral duty to the public". Mr North said the supermarket's only mantra was to respond to customer demand. Ms Bromley and Mr Croft said that the Co-operative Group took responsibility for what its customers ate.
The society said there are three key ways in which its retail activity can support broader nutritional goals:
? Product formulation
? Product marketing (labelling, promotion and advertising)
? Provision of information to consumers and communities on products, diet and nutrition.
A document presented to the committee further read: "We have pursued these aims for some time, with concerted activity in each case, supported through our Co-op Brand product range and associated policies. By developing these approaches, we have been able to support access to a range of dietary needs, with information on packs, in stores and via our consumer support activities helping to make an informed choice."