The UK government has announced a further delay to a planned ban on two-for-the-price-of-one ‘junk-food’ offers.
Having already been pushed back the ban – part of its anti-obesity strategy – to October this year, a ban on so-called BOGOF (buy one, get one free) deals has now been delayed for another two years until October 2025.
Once again, the government has blamed the cost of living for its decision not to implement the ban on multi-buy deals on food high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS).
Announcing the news on Saturday (17 June), the government said the further extension will “allow it to continue to review the impact of the restrictions on the consumers and businesses in light of the unprecedented global economic situation”.
It added: “Economies across the world have been affected by higher-than-expected global energy and goods prices, leading to increased costs across supply chains. The delay means shoppers will be able to continue taking advantage of multi-buy offers on all foods.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I firmly believe in people’s right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop.
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“It is right that we consider carefully the impact on consumers and businesses while ensuring we’re striking the balance with our important mission to reduce obesity and help people live healthier lives.”
While speculation that a ban on junk-food deals and restrictions on advertising such products are to be scrapped has not come to fruition, the decision to further delay a ban on the former has angered health campaigners.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chair of Action on Sugar and Acton on Salt, said: “Scrapping the already delayed multi-buy price promotions policy, which is part of the government’s own evidence-based childhood obesity strategy, would be unforgivable – especially given two-thirds of adults are living with overweight or obesity and putting real pressure on the NHS [National Health Service].
“The government’s own data shows these promotions cause people to spend 20% more than they intended, so why would the government not want to address this and make it easier for families to buy healthier food instead? Otherwise, it will exacerbate the already widening health inequalities by making healthier nutritious food less accessible to those who need it most.”
Katharine Jenner, director of Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), said: “We strongly urge the government to follow the evidence and allow the incoming, and already delayed multi-buy price promotions restrictions to come into force in October 2023 as planned rather than October 2025.
“Without doubt, multi-buy price promotions do not save people money. Instead, they encourage people to impulsively buy more unhealthy food, rather than make savings from food already on their shopping list. If ministers are serious about their ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030, then this multi-buy price promotions policy, which is an important part of the government’s evidence-based childhood obesity strategy, is vital.”
The ban, which would impact deals on products including crisps and sweets, was previously delayed under former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May last year due to the “unprecedented global economic situation”.
Government intervention is now “necessary” as food manufacturers have not shown enough “appetite to change”, Mayer said in a statement.
Last month, the UK’s opposition Labour Party said it will ban junk-food advertising aimed at children if it gets into power after the next General Election.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, said: “I am saying very clearly to those who profit from harming our children – no, not in Britain.”
In December, the government delayed its plan to ban junk-food TV adverts before the 9pm ‘watershed’ when they may be seen by children.
The restrictions have been pushed back to 1 October 2025.