THE Co-operative Group is to remove all 'diabetic' products from its food stores and pharmacies.
The announcement means the Group's 380 UK pharmacies will no longer sell varieties of chocolate, jams, marmalade and squash drinks aimed at people with diabetes. In addition, Co-op food stores are withdrawing "diabetic" preserves.
Healthy eating advice for people with diabetes is now no different than for the rest of the population, so there is no need to have 'diabetic' chocolate, jams and similar products. The Group has made its decision to stop selling 'diabetic' food and drink products following a consultation with Diabetes UK.
Recent studies have shown that restricting carbohydrates, which used to be part of diet guidelines for people with diabetes, is likely to cause people to eat a high-fat diet and so make the long-term complications of diabetes worse.
Zoe Harrison, care adviser at Diabetes UK, said: "We are pleased to be working with the Co-operative Group to withdraw its 'diabetic' range, and we hope other pharmacies and supermarkets will follow its example. 'Diabetic' foods tend to be 'treat' foods such as chocolates and biscuits. These foods do not contain sugar so people may think that labelling them as "suitable for diabetics" means it's OK to eat large quantities.
"However, diabetic foods are also high in fat and are therefore unadvisable in large quantities for people with or without diabetes. They also contain sweeteners which affect blood glucose levels in much the same way as sugar, and therefore offer no nutritional benefit. I hope other outlets will follow this example."
People with diabetes are advised that small amounts of ordinary versions of the products can still be included, as part of a healthy balanced diet – the same advice that applies to everyone. The Group's announcement, at the start of Diabetes Awareness Week, means Co-op Pharmacies and food stores will begin phasing out diabetic food products, and will inform customers of the change.
"We will phase out these items as we have a number of customers who are used to buying them from us, and we need to make them fully aware of the change," said Liz Colling, Co-operative Group Pharmacy's head of pharmacy.
"The advice to people with diabetes has changed in recent years, and the focus is now on making healthy food choices and having a balanced diet – not simply eating special 'diabetic' products, which are often very expensive. " "
'Diabetic' foods became popular in the 1960s when diabetes care focused on eating a sugar-free, low-carbohydrate diet. Food manufacturers used sugar alcohols and bulk sweeteners, instead of sucrose, to make sugar-free products.
For further information on diabetes please call the Diabetes UK's confidential careline on 0845 120 2960, or visit www.diabetes.org.uk