FOOD shoppers should be confronted with graphic images of tooth decay and bowel cancer on products such as confectionary and red meat to encourage them to make healthier choices, according to a psychologist hired to advise Food Standards Scotland.

Emma Kenny, a behavioural psychologist who has commentated on television shows such as Celebrity Big Brother in the past, also said it was "dangerous and incorrect" to send a message to people that being overweight can be beautiful or healthy.

In an interview with the Herald, Ms Kenny said health warnings on packaging would make people think more carefully about what they buy.

She said: "The western world would be a far healthier and happier place if the food industry were regulated in a truthful manner.

"If when you went to buy red meat you were confronted with pictures of bowel cancer, or were confronted with pictures of tooth decay when you picked up those sweets for your kids, the chances are that you would think twice about buying them."

Ms Kenny has been consulting with FSS as part of the agency's new obesity campaign against upsizing, which warns consumers to be more aware of the tricks the food industry uses to persuade them to 'go large' and how it drives up calorie intake.

The Herald:

Ms Kenny said the tactics used by retailers and restaurants have led the public to "mistake overeating for value for money".

She said: "The truth is that upsizing is based on a great deal of research regarding consumer behaviour.

"The basis involves making the customer feel they are being advised of a better offer, and promotes a fear of missing out, which is turn leads to more impulsive behaviour.

"This results in a meal choice that is bigger and more calorific than they require. Now faced with a challenge of not getting their money's worth, they overeat to rationalise their choice.

"What is hugely damaging about this cycle is that many shops and restaurants apply this type of psychology and that leads to people feeling that unless they have been offered very large portions of food, then they haven't been given the service they expect."

The Herald:

FSS has warned that common upsizing offers like swapping from a small to large popcorn adds 689 calories, while exchanging a single cheeseburger for a meal deal where its accompanied by regular fries, a regular fizzy drink and onion rings will add 688 calories.

The campaign comes amid plans by the Scottish Government to outlaw junk food multi-buy deals, force restaurants and takeaways to display calorie contents and cap portion sizes, potentially leading to a ban on 'super-sizing' or all-you-can-eat buffets.

Obesity is now the second most common cause of cancer after smoking, increasing the risk of several forms of the disease including breast, bowel, pancreatic, throat and kidney cancer.

Eating more than 90g of red or processed meats a day - for example, two rashers of bacon or a gammon steak - is also linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer.

Ms Kenny said the success of public health interventions such as the smoking ban showed that people's behaviours can be changed, and cautioned against normalising obesity.

"There is a limiting belief in society that is held by too many, this involves one where the expectation is that ‘nothing will change’.

Actually, what we have seen from the smoking ban is an absolute transformation on peoples’ attitude toward smoking in general.

"Whilst we cannot ban food, I think we should at least regulate the type and quantities of food that can be sold to us, and any measure that attempts to do this is a welcome one.

"We are looking at levels of obesity that are killing at worse, and limiting at best the lives of huge numbers children and adults in the UK.

The NHS cannot cope with the pressure that derives from the obesity epidemic, and unless stringent steps are taken, these issues will simply grow worse.

"I believe that life is better spent being healthy and treating your body with respect, and whilst there is a need for kindness and compassion in society, the myth that ‘big is beautiful’ or ‘fat and healthy’ is a dangerous, and incorrect one."