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Ministers consult on new restrictions on the sale of junk food

Ministers are consulting ahead of brining in new restrictions on the sale of foods which are in high in fat and sugar. (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Ministers are consulting ahead of brining in new restrictions on the sale of foods which are in high in fat and sugar. (Anthony Devlin/PA)

A crackdown on price promotions for junk food could be extended to include items such as garlic bread, pies and quiches, and crispbreads.

The Scottish Government has already pledged to change the law to restrict “unhealthier food and drink promotions”.

Ministers hope the changes – which could bar “buy one get on free” deals and three for the price of two promotions on items – will encourage people to eat more healthily.

Drinks promotions, where customers can have unlimited refills of sugary soft drinks for a fixed price, could be ended, while shops could also be barred form displaying certain foods in key areas of the store – such as around the checkouts and at the end of aisles.

A consultation which has now been launched also asks what categories of food should be included in the upcoming legislation.

Ministers want to know if the legislation should be applied only to “discretionary” items – such as sweets, biscuits, crisps, savoury snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings and soft drinks – or if other products should be included.

Options being consulted on include applying the restrictions to ice cream and dairy desserts, as well as to other items including breakfast cereals, sweetened yoghurts, pizzas and ready meals.

This approach would be “consistent with those set out in the UK Government regulations for England”, the consultation notes.

However ministers are also considering if other categories of foods – including garlic bread, pies and quiches, savoury biscuits, crackers and crispbreads, table sauces and dressings, processed meat products and sweet spreads – should  also be covered by the restrictions.

Two out of three adults in Scotland are overweight or obese, public health minister Maree Todd said (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Speaking as the consultation, which will run until September 23, was launched, public health minister Maree Todd said: “Our diets remain too high in calories, fat, sugar and salt which can have serious consequences for our overall health.”

She added: “In Scotland, two out of three adults are overweight or obese, with those living in our poorest areas more likely to be overweight and experience the most harm as a result.

“We know that promotions can encourage over-consumption and impulse buying.

“By restricting the promotion of less healthy food and drink we can better support people to make healthier choices and help create a Scotland where everyone eats well and has a healthy weight.”

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) welcomed the consultation, with head of nutrition science and policy Dr Gillian Purdon stating: “Restricting promotions of these types of foods is one way to support people to make healthier choices.”

Dr Purdon added: “FSS supports the introduction of promotional restrictions on these products as part of a suite of recommendations to address the nation’s poor diet.

“Promotions can encourage us to buy more than we need, and don’t necessarily save us money.

“Evidence shows that a considerable amount of the food and drink we buy is on promotion, and is often skewed towards less healthy choices such as confectionery, sweet biscuits, savoury snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings and sugar containing soft drinks. These foods account for around 20% of calories and fat in our diet, and more than half of our free sugar intake.”

Meanwhile Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy, said there was much that they could support.

He insisted retailers were already “committed to helping consumers make healthier choices”, with the sector having “led the way on reformulating products to reduce salt, sugar, and fat”.

Mr MacDonald-Russell continued: “Most retailers have reduced or removed multi-buy promotions of less healthy products, and we think there is a good case for putting this into legislation to ensure a level playing field.

“Similarly, there is an opportunity to align definitions across the UK which would ensure the policy is both more effective and less disruptive to retailers who operate both within and outwith Scotland.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell added it was “sensible” that the Scottish Government as not currently considering reducing restrictions on temporary price promotions, saying these helped shops attract customers and keep prices down.

“With inflation running at a 14-year-high it would be regressive and irresponsible to put up costs in this manner with no evidence at this time that it would significantly improve public health,” he said.