AoS made the calls following a survey that pointed to the high amounts of sugar in chocolate confectionery ‘sharing’ bags.
The organisation accused confectionery firms of encouraging “excessive sugar consumption” by price-discounting such bags.
It surveyed 95 chocolate sharing bags and found that Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Flavour (198g) contained the most sugar: 29 teaspoons, or four times an adult’s maximum recommended daily intake.
Next in line was Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai & Blueberry (198g) with 28 teaspoons of sugar per pack, followed by Marks & Spencer’s Gigantic Milk Chocolate Buttons (170g) and Lidl’s Mister Choc White Chocolate Giant Buttons (140g), both containing 23 teaspoons of sugar.
The information was collected between December 2017 and January 2018 from a range of supermarkets, including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, The Co-op and Waitrose.
AoS said each retailer offered price promotions on some sharing bags, which made them comparatively better value for money than smaller pack sizes.
The campaign group said its calls were backed by consumers, as its own twitter poll of just over 260 people revealed almost nine out of 10 (85%) called for the removal of price promotions on confectionery sharing bags.
It said removing price promotions on high-sugar products could cut almost two teaspoons (7g) of sugar on average from every individual’s diet per day.
AoS is now calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to immediately revise and strengthen her Childhood Obesity: a Plan for Action.
Kawther Hashem, researcher at AoS and a registered nutritionist, said: “Companies and supermarkets are constantly finding ways to push more sugary products – which are contributing to the high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay in the UK.
“These types of price promotions (ie discounts) encourage us to eat far too much sugar and calories and should be banned. It is time retailers are pressed to act responsibly and no longer profit at the expense of our health.”
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of AoS, said it was “shocking” that food companies were being allowed to exploit consumers. He also accused food businesses of “manipulating” consumers to purchase larger bags of chocolate confectionery on the cheap.
“Prime Minister Theresa May is letting companies get away with this, despite pledging to help the socially deprived when she first became the prime minister. Companies must be held accountable and reminded to reconsider their ethical and corporate responsibility,” he said.
However, a spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation said the organisation was opposed to taxes as there was no “substantive evidence” that they made any “meaningful” difference to obesity.
“Research suggests that promotions are already a declining part of the marketing mix for most major UK retailers and high fat, salt and sugar foods do not make up the overwhelming proportion of such promotions,” he said.
“Retail promotions not only make food more affordable, they also allow established brands to promote new, innovative products and help challenger brands to get established.”