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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details

Colls, R. & Evans, B. (2008). Embodying responsibility: children's health and supermarket initiatives. Environment and Planning A 40(3): 615-631.

Author(s) from Durham


In this paper we interrogate the ways in which supermarkets ‘place’ responsibility for children’s ‘healthy’ eating with parents and/or children, as set within the contemporary British public health concern with the prevalence of childhood obesity. We use British food retailers’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies as a way of identifying specific relations of responsibility between supermarkets, parents, and children. We do this through focusing upon a critical interrogation of two supermarkets’ children’s ‘healthy’ eating initiatives; a supermarket own-brand range of children’s ‘healthy’ food products; and a supermarket in-store ‘healthy’ food tour. The emergent geographies of embodied responsibility illustrate a deferral of responsibility from supermarkets to parents. This is problematic because it conversely excludes the possibilities for the child to be a consumer on the grounds that they are irresponsible and incapable of engaging with ‘healthy’ food. We suggest that this implied model of responsibility, which conceptualises responsibility as contained within the individual, is unhelpful because of its exclusivity and suggest that a collective notion of responsibility is necessary to understand fully the relations of responsibility that exist between bodies. This opens up possibilities for a more nuanced account of the ‘child’ consumer and the relationships that children have with ‘healthy’ food.