JUNK FOOD DEALS TO BE OUTLAWED
Supersized meals and 2-for-1 offers will be BANNED under SNP law
RADICAL plans to bring in a law to ban junk food promotions in shops, restaurants and cinemas are to be unveiled by the SNP within weeks.
Ministers yesterday said they will outline a detailed plan to tackle Scotland’s obesity epidemic, including proposals to ban ‘buy one get one free’ and other multi-buy promotions in shops and supermarkets.
But they are also expected to propose the ban is widened to include premises such as restaurants, which could mean fast-food chains banned from encouraging customers to ‘supersize’ and buy larger portions for a small fee.
Set meal deals – in which a number of items are bought cheaper together than individually – could also be under threat.
Cinemas may also be banned from encouraging customers to buy huge portions of popcorn and fizzy drinks.
The new strategy is also expected to include a ban on the marketing of unhealthy foods aimed at children.
But ministers yesterday admitted there is a risk the proposals could spark another major legal battle, as happened with the SNP’s plan to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which has been stuck in the courts for years.
Public health minister Aileen Campbell confirmed the plans to bring
forward detailed proposals by the end of the year.
This would be followed by a consultation period of around 12 weeks, then the Scottish Government would need formal legislation at Holyrood before it can press ahead with a ban.
The confirmation came on the day the World Health Organisation announced it would target food giants in a major drive to tackle global childhood obesity.
A new WHO report, Ending Childhood Obesity, urges governments to act to limit the marketing of unhealthy highcalorie and sugar-laden food products and drinks aimed at children.
It also recommends sugary drink taxes such as the one due to be introduced in the UK next year, clear front-of-package labelling listing food contents and banning the provision of unhealthy food, snacks and drinks in schools.
Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Glasgow yesterday, Miss Campbell highlighted work by Cancer Research UK and Food Standards Scotland on the need for action.
She said: ‘They have been very good at articulating the fact people don’t have the choice, that they are bombarded with different forms of marketing every time they go into a shop, are led down aisles with offers like twofor-one and three-for-two, meaning people are incentivised to buy more calories than they need.
‘Like everything else, it is those that are most vulnerable that are most impacted.’
She added: ‘I think we also need to be wise to the fact that the boldness we showed regarding alcohol and the minimum unit pricing has also meant we have had a legal fight for the last five years and still not managed to get to the end of that.
‘So alongside being bold and ambitious we need to make sure what we do is deliverable and to be sure that we are evidence-led, because that will stand us in good stead if we start to be challenged by some of the vested interests around food production.’
Nicola Sturgeon’s programme for government included a proposal to ‘limit the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt which disproportionately contribute to ill-health and obesity’.
But Stuart Mackinnon of the Federation of Small Businesses said independent retailers have already had ‘a rollercoaster of regulatory change in the last five years’ and demanded ‘a moratorium on new regulation’.
The Scottish Retail Consortium has signalled that it could support the move as long as it does not only impact on shops and supermarkets.
In a paper for Food Standards Scotland, Professor Leigh Sparks of Stirling University said the retail store ‘is a critical battleground over any improvement of the Scottish diet’.
His report criticised the labelling on food packaging, the prominent display of unhealthy foods, the low price of some unhealthy products and the use of buy one get one free deals and other price promotions on food and drink which is high in salt and sugar.
But it pointed out price promotions are used in non-retail premises, which should also be regulated, and called for ‘radical steps’ to tackle the problem. The report said: ‘We conclude the current context for consumer choice in-store is affecting the health and diet of consumers in Scotland.
‘We need action to rebalance the provision and promotion of products in-store and consideration given to steps to alter the differential pricing between healthy and unhealthy products.’
At the meeting, Professor Sparks said the Government ‘can’t just look at retail alone’ and highlighted that cinemas often encourage people to buy larger sizes of food and drink.
Jyotsna Vohra of Cancer Research UK said 60 per cent of purchases of unhealthy food is as a result of a multibuy promotion.
‘We can’t just look at retail alone’
OBESITY is the major health crisis of our day, a multi-headed hydra of a problem that will take innovative and complex initiatives to solve.
So is the clunking fist of legislation truly the answer?
The SNP seems to think so, bringing forward plans to outlaw ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions in shops and supermarkets.
It is also expected to extend the ban to include ‘super-size’ portions in fast food outlets and cinemas may also be banned from encouraging customers to buy huge portions of popcorn and fizzy drinks.
Evidence that this sort of crackdown works is skimpy and the Mail would argue that public information campaigns to help people make sound choices cannot simply be abandoned in favour of new laws.
And already the business community is concerned about regulation overload.
With our health at stake, it would be a disappointment if well-intentioned legislation ends up delivering nothing but hefty legal bills while bogged down in court challenges.