Intended for healthcare professionals


Large scale food retail interventions and diet

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 24 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:683
  1. Steven Cummins, MRC fellow (,
  2. Mark Petticrew, associate director,
  3. Leigh Sparks, professor,
  4. Anne Findlay, research fellow
  1. Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, London E1 4NS
  2. MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ
  3. Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA

Improving retail provision alone may not have a substantial impact on diet

Ensuring communities have good access to healthy affordable food is one of the government's joined up strategies to improve public health and reduce health inequalities.1 2 Policy solutions for deprived communities without good access—food deserts—have focused on improving provision of food retail as part of a wider suite of recommendations for population dietary change focused around awareness, affordability, and acceptability.3 However, the evidence for the widespread existence of food deserts and their impact on population health has been contested.4 5 This has meant that although retail based policy recommendations to reduce diet related health inequalities now exist,1 2 the evidence to inform how, when, and where to reduce these inequalities is only now emerging.

Recently completed projects in Newcastle, Leeds, and Glasgow have started to provide us with this evidence.68 The Newcastle study concludes that food deserts exist only for a minority of people …

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