Industry backs junk food ban delay, critics say BOGOF

fatGovernment plans to delay the implementation of new restrictions on advertising foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) have, perhaps unsurprisingly, been give the thumbs up by the ad industry, despite howls of protest from healthy food campaigners.

The ban on HFSS ads on TV before 9pm and paid-for ads online will be paused for a year, meaning they come into force in January 2024. This is due to a delay to the Health & Care Bill receiving Royal Assent, as well as a growing recognition that the industry needs more time to prepare, the Government said.

Rules banning multibuy deals on – including buy one get one free (BOGOF), ‘3 for 2’, and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks – were due to come into force in October 2022 and will also be delayed for a year.

However, a ban on the placement of less healthy products will still come into force in October as planned. These will mean less healthy products are no longer promoted in key locations, such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents.

The Government claims the delay to restrictions on multibuy deals will allow ministers to review and monitor the impact of the restrictions on the cost of living in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.

A consultation on TV and paid-for adverts online will be launched in the coming weeks.

Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said: “We’re committed to doing everything we can to help people live healthier lives. Pausing restrictions on deals like buy one get one free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.”

Advertising Association director of public affairs Sue Eustace commented: “The announcement of a 12-month delay is a sensible decision at this time to allow the industry to work through with Government the most successful way to tackle obesity.

“The industry is committed to tackling this issue in a way that recognises the cost of living crisis and pressures that everybody is facing currently. There are many ways that advertising can help achieve this ambition, not least through promoting active lifestyles such as The Daily Mile.

“We know from the evidence that an HFSS ad ban will not be the most effective route, and we welcome the opportunity to look again at this legislation and find the best way to a solution.”

However, Children’s Food Campaign co-ordinator Barbara Crowther appeared to suggest that ministers should BOGOF themselves as the Government should move faster and stop dithering.

She added: “Obesity is spiking and millions of families can’t afford to put proper food on the table. Multi-buy offers make people spend more on junk, and less on healthy food. This delay threatens the UK target to halve childhood obesity by 2030. Boris is playing politics with our children’s health.”

Last week the World Health Organisation claimed the UK is set to become the fattest nation in Europe, blaming the country’s pandemic-fuelled “Deliveroo culture” on expanding waistlines.

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