The UK government is reportedly preparing plans to announce restrictions in England on the promotion of foods high in sugar, salt and fat.

According to a report in The Times today (10 July), supermarkets will be prohibited from offering ‘buy one, get one free’ discounts on certain products. The Government is also expected to ban confectionery being promoted at the end of supermarket aisles and at entrances. The measures are to be announced this month, the newspaper reported.

However, there is not yet set to be an introduction of a 9pm watershed on the advertising of less healthy foods. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have changed his views on government involvement in tackling obesity since his illness from Covid-19 earlier this year. The Government is also said to be mulling plans to mandate calorie counts being placed on menus in foodservice settings, The Times said.

Approached by just-food, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care said: “We don’t have anything to add to this as it’s speculation. Any changes will be announced in due course.”

In 2018, under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, the UK announced a fresh push to try to tackle rising obesity levels among children in the country.

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The UK government set out a series of proposed measures, which were open for consultation by the end of 2018, including banning the sale of sweets and snacks at checkouts, fresh restrictions on advertising unhealthy food to children on TV and online, and clear calorie labelling in foodservice outlets. UK food manufacturers expressed “deep disquiet” at those plans.

These proposals were the subject of consultations completed in April and June 2019 but with no action taken by Johnson – historically sceptical about government intervention in efforts to curb obesity – since he became Prime Minister.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at UK retailers’ association The British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers have made good progress helping consumers tackle obesity, however we recognise the current approach is not enough. There is evidence to suggest that tackling volume promotions, if properly targeted, could help reduce obesity. However, it needs to apply to all food outlets and be part of a comprehensive obesity policy that is evidence based and includes everyone.”

just-food has approached UK trade body The Food and Drink Federation for comment.

With health a devolved policy area in the UK, last month the Scottish government decided to pause plans to limit the way foods high in fat, sugar or salt can be promoted in the country.