In its latest annual Programme for Government, published last week, the Scottish Government included measures to bring forward a bill restricting the promotion and marketing of targeted HFSS food and drink.
The proposed bill will also aim to protect children, with action to extend current restrictions for non-broadcast advertising of HFSS food and drink.
It follows on from the Scottish Government’s consultation paper, A Healthier Future, published in April 2018. The consultation paper suggested that restrictions on HFSS food and drink should apply to multibuys, X for Y, and temporary price promotions.
Further proposals included the extension of current restrictions on advertising targeted at children to all programmes broadcast before the 9pm watershed, and a review of the implementation and impact of the Committee of Advertising Practice code on non-broadcast advertising of HFSS products.
The paper also set out the Scottish Government’s commitment to investing £200,000 over three years to assist small and medium-sized enterprises in reformulating their products in favour of healthier food options.
The Scottish Government said the bill would underpin the significant work already being done – or planned – to deliver the Good Food Nation ambition in Scotland.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the case for taking mandatory action had been made.
“This week’s Programme for Government sets out our commitment to introduce a bill on restricting food promotions before the end of the current session of Parliament.”
“That bill is in addition to the Good Food Nation bill, which also gives us the opportunity, as a country, to translate our excellence in food and drink produce into better diets.
“However, there is no doubt that restricting point-of-sale junk food promotions that encourage overconsumption and impulse buying of junk food has a very important role to play in meeting our target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.”
A critical public health issue
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said the announcement of the bill targeting the promotion of HFSS food was “much-needed to help address the critical public health issue”.
“FSS recognises the importance and challenge of tackling obesity and poor diet in Scotland,” said FSS chair Ross Finnie.
“As much as 50% of the sugar, 20% of calories and 20% of fat in our diets comes from ‘discretionary’ snacks and drinks such as sweets, chocolate, cakes, crisps and sugary drinks.
“Given that two-thirds of us are either overweight or obese, it is absolutely right that transformational measures such as those proposed in this bill are taken forward as a priority to help us improve the standards of food available to people in Scotland.”
Lobby group Action on Sugar (AoS) “applauded” Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement and urged the UK Government to follow suit.
“The current UK regulations have major loopholes allowing aggressive advertising and promotions to cast unhealthy options in a starring role in children’s minds, leaving healthier food options in the background,” said AoS nutritionist and campaign director Katharine Jenner.
“To set the stage for good health, it is vital that only non-HFSS foods and drinks can be marketed and promoted, including in-store price promotions and sweets at the checkouts.”