Berkeley bans grocery stores from putting candy at checkout aisles, requires healthy snacks instead

The Berkeley City Council has passed an ordinance that bars grocery stores from selling candy and soda at checkout lines and instead encourages the sale of healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts and beverages with no added sugars.

The ordinance, passed unanimously Tuesday night, applies to retailers with stores greater than 2,500 square feet and will impact chains that operate in Berkeley such as Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Proponents of the ordinance state that the rule will encourage healthier food consumption choices.

“The healthy checkout ordinance is essential for community health, especially in the time of COVID-19,” said Berkeley City Council member Kate Harrison, one of the ordinance’s co-authors. “What is good for Berkeley customers is also good for our businesses.”

The initiative was backed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a national consumer advocacy group.

“Many parents of color in Berkeley are worried because they are seeing a rise in diabetes in the community and they fear for their children’s lives,” Monique Blodgett, a Berkeley mother and local activist said in a CSPI release touting the ordinance’s passage. “I believe healthy checkout lanes would make a huge difference for Berkeley families and help people gain more confidence shopping. It would also demonstrate that their community cares about them and their health.”

Under the ordinance, only food items with no more than five grams of added sugars or 250 milligrams of sodium per serving will be allowed at checkout aisles. This will eliminate the usual assortment of candies, chips, sodas and gum shoppers usually see while paying.

The new ordinance goes into effect March 1, 2021, but enforcement will not begin until Jan. 1, 2022.

Eric Ting is an SFGATE reporter. Email: [email protected] | Twitter:@_ericting

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