The UK government is reportedly ready to scrap its own plans to ban multi-buy promotions on foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
According to The Financial Times and The Daily Express, the Government has dropped plans to introduce the measure, a move that was set for October.
The ban was not mentioned in yesterday’s Queen Speech, which sets out the legislative programme for the Government.
While some ruling Conservative Party MPs have welcomed the idea, the Government has not commented publicly. Just Food has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.
Obesity campaigners have expressed dismay at the prospect. Retail trade body The Association of Convenience Stores welcomed the idea.
A spokesperson for The Food and Drink Federation, which represents food manufacturers operating in the UK, declined to comment on “speculation” when approached by Just Food. Industry has long expressed its unhappiness at the idea.
The ban in England on promotions such as ‘buy one, get one free’ or ‘3 for 2’ on less healthy foods was set to be introduced in April but was pushed back to October after talks with the industry.
Under the new rules, “less healthy promotions” will also no longer be featured in “key locations”, such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents.
“Our members are telling us that customers are watching every penny, so now is not the time to put new legislation in place that makes feeding families more expensive. Scrapping the ban on ‘buy-one-get-one’ deals and other promotions would help retailers to deliver value for customers in stores,” ACS chief executive James Lowman said.
“We are also urging the Government to rethink whether to continue with location restrictions. These measures are complex, unnecessary and expensive to implement, and retailers tell us that they cannot just absorb the cost as they are dealing with increased costs in every area of their businesses.”
Caroline Cerny, of campaign group the Obesity Health Alliance, dismissed the idea keeping promotions would help consumers facing pressure on incomes.
“We are very concerned by these reports and urge the Government to stick to its plans to restrict promotions on junk food in October. Research is crystal clear that multi-buy promotions are a false economy that do not save us money. They are a marketing tactic purposely designed to entice to us buy more and buy more often. Delaying these new laws will do nothing to help the cost of living crisis but will worsen the health of the nation,” she said.
“Over the years we have seen far too many health policies delayed or dropped before they have had the chance to make an impact for political reasons. Delaying or dropping these new laws would be a huge setback for our health and back-tracks on the promise Boris Johnson made to the nation in 2020 to make being healthier easier.”
Last month, Kellogg started legal action against the UK government over its plans to restrict the promotion of foods deemed to be high in sugar. The Coco Pops maker argues the Government’s calculations for breakfast cereal fail to consider the nutritional value of the milk added to the product.
April also saw the 9pm TV watershed and online restrictions on advertising HFSS foods written into UK law.