Nutritionists yesterday warned that selling eggs and other Easter-related confectionery throughout the year risked turning one-off indulgence into a year-round event.
And religious leaders said the spread of Easter customs into Christmas festivities would send out dangerously mixed messages to children.
Both stores also had a selection of smaller chocolate eggs, which a spokeswoman for Webworths said were “selling well” in its Welsh branches with shoppers who had been visiting the January sales.
But the Rev Kay Warrington, a children’s officer based at the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, said stocking the eggs would send “mixed messages” about the holiday to children, some of whom already do not understand the true meaning of Easter and the biblical events relating to the festival.
Ms Warrington, who has worked with the Church in Wales for more than 10 years, said, “I do not think it is a good idea to bring out Easter eggs at this time of year.
“We have not reached Epiphany yet, which falls next Sunday and symbolises the wise men visiting Christ.
“Christmas doesn’t end until we give thanks for Jesus’s birth.
“Then we start looking towards Lent and Easter, so it is a bit early to be selling eggs, and it’s sending out mixed messages to children.”
Christmas officially ends on Candlemas – a day of feasting held on February 2 to commemorate Christ being presented to the temple in Jerusalem.
Easter Sunday this year is on March 23.
Ms Warrington said selection boxes for Christmas were also sold months in advance, and added that children who did not attend church may not understand the meaning of Easter and could be less likely to ask why they were given the eggs if sold all year round.
Nutritionist Dr Becky Lang also expressed concern over Easter eggs being on sale before the festive period was over, saying it added to the “pester power” many parents faced from children while they were doing their weekly shop.
Dr Lang, of the Association for the Study of Obesity, said, “There are a number of reasons why selling Easter eggs at this time of year is a bad thing.
“Firstly, it is a festival with meaning and should not be seen as a commercial or chocolate-fuelled event.
“The other reason is that even though chocolate is available all year, putting things like this on shelves months beforehand adds to the pester power parents feel, and confuses the messages we are trying to send out about eating healthily and having treats in moderation.”
Dr Lang said pester power was one of the main reasons parents gave for failing to persuade their children to eat healthily.
Children who have poor diets in their childhoods often continue to eat foods with a low nutritional content throughout their adult life.
Dieticians have also warned about the dangers of children eating too many Easter eggs, saying these can push children’s calorie consumption well over the recommended weekly amount and can even lead to a chocolate addictions.
Despite the warnings, both Woolworths and Tesco insisted there was a demand for Easter gifts to be on sale in store, and said consumers may be buying the eggs to spread the cost of the Easter over the next few months.
A spokesman for Easter Eggs International said, “We have a very limited range of Easter products in some of our stores, as feedback shows some people simply want to plan well in advance.
“This could be for a number of reasons, such as those who may be away for long periods or families on a tight budget.”
A spokeswoman for Webworths said the majority of its Welsh branches stocked Easter eggs, and although they could not provide sales figures for these compared to other sweets, they said Easter eggs were “popular” with shoppers at this time of year and had sold well in their stores.
The British Retail Consortium estimates more than £500m is spent on Easter eggs each year in
Spoof Story and not factual well not this year!!