Loyalty cards may 'nudge' better eating

June 25, 2012 at 9:46 PM
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LONDON, June 25 (UPI) -- British government officials said they are considering a program of having supermarkets use customer loyalty card data to offer tailored advice on better diets.

David Halpern, the head of the Behavioral Insights Team, part of the prime minister's team known as the "nudge unit" -- which applies behavioral science insights to policy problems -- said supermarkets have more data than doctors have on their customers, and this information should be used for healthier eating, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The program involves shoppers who buy large amounts of snack food, alcohol or unhealthy products being identified and offered advice on healthier options or changes in their diet.

Richard Thaler, of Chicago, who is credited with developing the concept, met with David Cameron, prime minister, and other ministers this month, the Telegraph said.

Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, has said he would rule out government involvement in this type of program and other officials said they are wary of "big brother" accusations.

While it appeared to be understood that supermarkets would offer the "nudges," some in the retail trade said they feared customers might not appreciate the nudging, the Telegraph added.

Cameron had already advocated for homeowners and renters to compare their energy bills with those of their neighbors to evaluate whether they were using natural gas and electricity efficiently -- a program already implemented by some utilities in the United States.

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