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Supermarket meal deals are essentially a cornerstone of British culinary culture, but one obesity expert believes they should be “illegal” and banned.

Dr Donal O'Shea is the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) clinical lead. During an appearance on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, he suggested that shop staff are “trained” to upsell unhealthy snacks.

He was speaking as part of a discussion around the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) warning that obesity has reached “epidemic proportions” across Europe.

During the show, a listener noted that the price of a sandwich and a drink in their local supermarket was lowered from €4.55 (£3.80) to €3.99 (£3.40) by adding a bag of crisps to the purchase.

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O’Shea said: “Literally, that should be illegal. The people who are in the supermarkets – the workers in the supermarkets and in the petrol stations – they're trained to offer that special offer.”

He continued: “And 70 per cent of people will say no the first time, but if the person behind the counter says 'well are you sure, it's a good offer'. Then another 30 per cent will say 'ah yeah, go on'.”

The expert urged shoppers to be “super aware” of the tactics of shops that encourage customers to buy more food than they need.

He said: “They are actually trained because the industry has the stats and they know how to prompt and they know how to promote consumption. We just have to be super aware of that and try to resist it.”

According to a new report from the WHO, obesity is responsible for 200,000 cancer cases and 1.2 million deaths a year in Europe.


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