Government clamps down on ‘junk food’ promotions

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

New guidelines restrict the promotion of 'junk foods' in store and online
New guidelines restrict the promotion of 'junk foods' in store and online

Related tags: HFSS, Promotion

A sweeping ban on promotions for ‘junk food’ will push up prices for consumers and hinder the production of healthier alternatives, according food trade bodies.

From April, UK retailers will be banned from putting multi-buy promotions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) under new Government guidelines. The sweeping bans will apply to ‘unhealthy foods’ sold in prominent locations such as checkouts and store entrances, as well as products sold online.

It followed a consultation launched in November last year​ over the future of online advertising for HFSS foods in the UK, which was criticised by the bosses of some of the biggest food and rink producers.

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief operating officer Tim Rycroft criticised the Government’s decision to publish the revised rulings over the Christmas holidays, a time when food and drink manufacturers were already rushed off their feet.

‘Flawed policy’

“They will have no bandwidth to devote to this flawed policy until the difficult first weeks of Brexit, post-transition, are out of the way,”​ he lamented. “The proposed restrictions will not only increase the cost of food for families but it will have harsh economic impacts for food and drink manufacturers who are already bracing themselves for the new costs of Brexit and the repercussions of the global pandemic.”

While Rycroft welcomed the Government’s efforts to improve public health, he called for greater collaboration with the food and drink industry in order to agree the practicalities of implementation.

“The FDF has continually attempted to engage with the Government on these proposals, ​to share our ideas on how to implement them in a way which both works for businesses, but we have continued to be ignored,”​ he added.

“We are deeply concerned that these proposals risk hindering progress with voluntary reformulation. Preventing manufacturers from promoting these reformulated, healthier options to shoppers is illogical – and completely contradicts the policy aim. It will be hard to persuade some manufacturers to continue to reformulate when their efforts are punished in this way.”

Level playing field

Meanwhile, professor Graham MacGregor, chair of pressure group Action on Sugar, said the move against promotions on junk food would provide a level playing field for responsible retailers, enabling them to promote healthier options to families.

“To bypass the restrictions and improve our health further, manufacturers have the opportunity to reformulate their less healthy products into healthier versions over the next two years when the Government, which has already bowed to industry lobbying and watered down their own Childhood Obesity Plan, has promised the restrictions will come into force,”​ he added.

“Putting junk food multi-buy offers in the aisles and at the checkouts is just another way of food companies sneaking their unhealthy products into your basket. Now is the time for healthier food to take centre stage.”

Related topics: Packaging & Labelling

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