ACS says vague HFSS policy is up for “interpretation”

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has criticised the new High Fat Salt & Sugar restriction guidance as it lacks clarity over the inclusion of symbol groups and franchises.

The news comes as the government published the implementation guidance by the Department of Health and Social Care last week.

The new guidance has clarified that products that have volume promotions printed on the packet will be subject to a sell-through period of 12 months to October 2023 as well as other measures.

READ MORE: Public appetite for ‘tobacco style’ restrictions on HFSS food runs out

In response, the Association claimed the clarification gave “no meaningful developments” to the ongoing uncertainty over the scope of the regulations.

Included in the government’s HFSS clarification was that independent retailers with fewer than 50 employees would be exempt restrictions.

However, this has sparked confusion over whether this exemption extended to retailers affiliated to a symbol group.

This comes as Spar retail director said at the The Grocer’s HFSS conference, that it had been forced to inform customers to take independent legal advice – with varied interpretations from different lawyers.

The ACS has flagged that the policy’s ambiguity doesn’t adequately address the different arrangements retailers have with symbol groups, leaving it up to interpretation.

“While the guidance provides some additional wording around the intention of the regulations when it comes to symbol and franchise operations, it is still recommended that retailers consult with their symbol group about whether legal advice has been issued on the status of their inclusion within the regulations,” an ACS spokesman said.

ACS CEO James Lowman added: “The guidance provides a lot of answers for the overall introduction of the rules, but there is still a lot of interpretation that will be left up to enforcement officers when the regulations come into force.”

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