HFSS promotion ban tipped to be scrapped in government u-turn

The UK government is set to backtrack on its plans for a crackdown on HFSS promotions.

According to reports from the Financial Times, Sky News and The Daily Express, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to put a hold on the plan, initially meant to be introduced in October this year.

No mention of the expected legislation was made in the Queen’s Speech yesterday.

According to The Grocer, sources suggest the government has decided to drop the proposed ban on volume promotions, as a result of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Originally, the policy – which aimed to tackle obesity – would have banned HFSS products from checkouts and aisle bays to reduce impulse buys, while also putting an end to multiple buy promotions such as buy one, get one free.

Commenting on the speculation, The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), CEO James Lowman said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

Barbara Crowther of Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign also commented on the speculation.

“There’s been a 57% increase in food insecurity in the last three months, and we urgently need the government to find practical solutions to support families during the cost-of-living crisis – such as expanding free school meals eligibility, for example,” she said.

“We are deeply worried that instead, the government may be considering delays to measures to ban junk food multi-buys that have been described as ‘immoral’ in the past because they don’t save people money at all. Evidence shows they lead to spending more on less healthy food, increasing risks of diet-related diseases and adding long-term cost and pressure for our NHS.”

The Department of Health recently reconfirmed the government’s commitment to drive forward regulation on high fat, salt and sugar foods, while the industry has been busy preparing stores, promotions and products in preparing for them.

Crowther added: “We call on the government not to backtrack or play politics with children’s health, but to stand by its own obesity strategy and focus on more effective measures to address the cost of living crisis.”

DWF head of consumer Dominic Watkins told Grocery Gazette that while “well intentioned”, the HFSS rules would have been “difficult to apply”.

He said the industry was “struggling to navigate the news rules due to crucial definitions missing, and confusion on where they apply based on shape or the presence of a wrapper, rather than nutrition.The final guidance released last month only compounded the situation.”

“A u-turn on these well intentioned rules would allow the industry to focus on reformulation and other measures that are in everyone’s best interest, regardless of the form of the product,” Watkins added.

Conservative MP Phillip Davies told The Express that it would be “unacceptable” for the Tory government to introduce a nanny state ban on special offers at any time, and to consider it during a cost of living crisis was “utter madness”.

He added: “I am delighted that the government has seen sense, and I am grateful to the prime minister for acting on the case I repeatedly made to him about this.

“I very much hope that this hare-brained scheme never sees the light of day again.”

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