First US city to ban junk food at checkout counters


On September 22, The Berkeley City Council passed an ordinance to ban junk food at store registers. Berkeley will be the 1st city to approve the “Healthy Checkout Ordinance”. The ban will effectively implement on March 1, 2021. Meanwhile, health inspectors will enforce the ban actively starting January 1, 2022. There will strictly be no displays of candy, chips, fizzy and other snacks at checkout counters.

At least 25 stores will be affected

The ordinance also requires stores that are above 2,500 square feet to sell not less than 25 feet of healthy products around the space at checkout registers. The newly passed ordinance will affect at least 25 stores in Berkeley. The 25 stores will include both grocery stores and drugstores. Involved stores include Berkeley Bowl, CVS, Monterey Market, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Whole Foods and more. 

The new policy will affect more than 25 stores, including the popular Berkeley Bowl.

Are your favourite snacks qualified to stay at the checkout areas?

Only food items with 5 grams of added sugar or less and those that are with less than 250 milligrams of sodium will be allowed. The ordinance passed with one accord at the Council’s meeting. Drinks with no added sugars namely LaCroix sparkling waters, Pure Leaf unsweetened black tea are allowed in checkout areas. Snacks with less than 5 grams of added sugars like Sabra hummus and Smartfood white cheddar popcorn are qualified to stay in checkout areas. Customers will still be able to purchase their desired treats, but they will just have to go looking for them around the stores.

Only qualified snacks will be displayed at checkout areas.

How can the ordinance help with the health of Berkeley’s residents?

A report on the ordinance stated, “The ordinance is another effort to create a healthy food environment that would support families by providing them the ability to avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient food and beverages when they do their grocery and other shopping.”

The report also added, “Individuals and families who want to purchase sugary drinks, candy, chips, and other sweet and salty snacks will be able to find them in their respective aisles in the centre of stores.”

Kate Harrison, a City Council member made a statement that unhealthy food options at checkout counters increased likelihood of purchasing at the end of their long shopping trip along with weak willpower.

Berkeley’s past effort on unhealthy products

In November 2014, Berkeley passed a penny-per-ounce soda tax in California City. The tax made the first nation’s first soda tax.

A study by the University of California reported a decrease in sugary drink consumption of more than 50 per cent with 3 years into soda tax. The study also suggested that taxation was an effective tool to fight against diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

In September 2020, The Berkeley City council passed the “Healthy Checkout Ordinance” for public health. Residents in Berkeley will continue to see big changes in stores for good.

Berkeley passed a penny-per-ounce soda tax in 2014.


More Information About:
Content Sources:
  1. Berkeley passes ban on candy, soda at registers
  2. Berkeley becomes 1st city to ban junk food at grocery store checkouts
  3. Three years into soda tax, sugary drink consumption down more than 50 per cent in Berkeley
  4. Tax on sugary drinks passed in first US city
  5. Nation’s First Soda Tax Passed in California City

Prepared by: Florin Hoo


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