Local stores are already making efforts to promote healthy eating habits without the need for legislation, delegates at the third Tackling Obesity Conference were told.

Addressing the conference held in London, Association of Convenience Stores public affairs director Shane Brennan said he was sceptical that interventions such as inflating prices, or forcing retailers to stock certain products and to delist others, would help shrink the nation's expanding waistlines. It was consumer habits that needed to change, Brennan added.

"Our members, being a large number of small players, follow the consumer," he said. "As customers demand healthier choice and range, it is the businesses that respond to this quickest and best that are reaping the rewards."

The event, which involved 400 health, education and local government professionals from across the UK, was held just weeks after proposals to remove confectionery displays from tills and prevent stores near schools selling high-calorie products were mooted by the Scottish government.