The UK government has set out plans to ban unhealthy promotions on food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) from April 2022 as part of a wider anti-obesity drive.
The new rules, confirmed recently, will prohibit retailers from offering multibuy promotions such as “buy one get one free” or “3 for 2” offers on these products. Unhealthy promotions will also no longer be featured in key locations, such as at checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents.
“We know families want to be presented with healthier choices. This is why we are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice,” said UK Public Health Minister Jo Churchill.
“Creating an environment which helps everyone eat healthier foods more regularly is crucial to improving the health of the nation,” she said.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that promotions often appear to help shoppers save money. However, data shows that these deals actually increase purchases of promoted products by almost 20 per cent. They encourage people to buy more than they need or intended to buy in the first place. Free refills of sugary soft drinks will also be prohibited in the eating-out sector.
In the New Year, PHE’s Better Health Campaign will also run new adverts on TV and online to inspire and support people to maintain a healthy weight, the DHSC said.
It warns that obesity is one of the biggest health crises the country faces; almost two thirds (63 per cent) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity and one in three children leave primary school overweight or obese. Obesity-related illnesses cost the National Health Service (NHS) £6 billion a year.
The government says its planned changes will make supermarkets and other retailers places where the healthy choice is the easy choice for everyone and support people to lead healthier lives. The location of products within stores can lead to "pester power" from children and can also significantly affect people’s purchases. For example, end-of-aisle displays have been shown to increase soft drink sales by over 50 per cent.
The latest announcement forms a key part of the UK government’s strategy to tackle obesity and "get the nation fit and healthy". The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the impact that obesity can have on people’s health and health outcomes.
These measures will support people in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and overall will improve the nation’s health, the DHSC said.