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Berkeley to be first US city to ban junk food, candy in grocery checkout aisles

Photo of candy. (Provided Photo)

 (CNN) — The city of Berkeley, California, is trying to make its residents healthier.

As part of a health initiative, Berkeley is getting ready to become the first city in the US to require large grocery stores to stop selling junk food and candy in checkout aisles. The new rule is expected to go into effect March 2021.

The “Healthy Checkout Ordinance” was unanimously approved by Berkeley’s City Council. It requires stores over 2,500 square-feet in size to sell at least 25 square-feet of healthy items within a three-foot radius of checkout registers.

So now instead of candy and soda and other high calories items, shoppers can expect to see fresh fruit and whole grain alternatives at checkout counters. “Placement of unhealthy snacks near a register increases the likelihood that customers will purchase these foods and drinks when willpower is weak at the end of a long shopping trip,” City Council member Kate Harrison said.

The new rule will affect at least 25 retailers in Berkeley. These include Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens and Safeway.

“It’s not a ban, it’s a nudge,” Harrison said. “Stores can still sell candy and soda, just not at your child’s eye level in the checkout.” The council said the shift to selling more healthy products at checkouts will still be profitable for stores because data shows customers are looking for more low sugar and low sodium products anyway.

They also said retailers in test cases around the country and in California have seen dramatic increases in sales of healthy foods since they changed their checkouts to include more fresh options in displays.

“The idea of healthy checkout is that it offers parents more opportunities to say yes to their kids, and it also helps us to re-envision what treats are,” said Holly Scheider, a member of Berkeley’s sugar-sweetened beverage commission.

Once the rule comes into effect, stores will be evaluated during their existing environmental health inspections to determine if they are properly complying, the council said.

“Unhealthy products actually pay for that prime real estate to create brand recognition and addict our families,” Scheider added.

A reading of the ordinance is scheduled for next month where the city council will announce final protocols for implementation, education and enforcement.