Doctors and the public are calling for an end to creeping holiday seasons that mean supermarkets start selling Easter eggs in January, fuelling the UK’s obesity epidemic.

Polling by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) shows 77 per cent of people think supermarkets are pushing chocolatey Easter treats too early.

This is felt particularly among parents, with nearly three out of five saying promotional Easter egg displays, given prime locations near the checkouts, have inspired their children to plead for treats.

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But children are far from the only ones whose willpower is easily swayed; as the poll of 2,000 people showed, 23 per cent have already bought and polished off an entire chocolate egg – with Easter still three weeks away.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said retailers claim that they’re committed to ending the obesity crisis, but this needs to be backed up by a change in their damaging marketing schemes.

She said: “It is clear that many shops and supermarkets are pushing products way too early – it isn’t uncommon to find Easter eggs on sale in the first week of January.

“Our research suggests that the public find this mildly irritating and it is just putting unnecessary temptation out there, particularly for children.”

The UK already has the highest rates of adult obesity in western Europe, with 27 per cent of adults clinically obese.

But it is a growing problem among young children as well. Government figures show one in five pupils in year six was obese and 4.2 per cent were classed as “severely obese” – the highest ever rate.

With the average Easter egg accounting for three quarters of an adult’s daily calorie intake, campaigners have called on the government to ban them – and other unhealthy treats – from checkouts and end-of-aisle displays, where they’re most likely to drive impulse buys.

The RSPH poll found widespread agreement (68 per cent) that most holidays and special occasions have become too much of a marketing ploy for unhealthy food.

Last year Coca-Cola had to scale back its Christmas truck tour because of a backlash from councils and health campaigners.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The bulk of Easter egg purchases are made in the week before Easter as customers rush to buy eggs for family and friends.

"However, many of us choose to buy and enjoy eggs even before Easter, and retailers cater to that demand as well.”

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