HFSS legislation has been a hot topic in the food and supermarket world for many months now. Proposed plans, due to come into effect from October this year will see the restriction of promotions and prominent shelf positioning of products high in sugar, salt and fat, in an attempt to tackle to the obesity crisis in the country. However, it has been recently announced that due to the cost of living crisis, some of these restrictions will be delayed by up to a year.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the planned ban on “buy one get one free” deals for HFSS food and drinks as well as free refills for soft drinks, would be put on hold for 12 months, until October 2023. Plans to restrict TV advertising of junk foods before the 21:00 GMT watershed and paid-for online adverts are also being paused for a year and will not come into force until January 2024 to try and help families struggling with rising costs.
However this has caused controversy in the media, with high profile industry figures, such as Jamie Oliver weighing into the debate. The chef staged a debate at the Houses of Parliament, accusing ministers of using the cost of living crisis as an excuse to clamp down and seriously tackle the health crisis in the UK. Former Conservative Party leader Lord Hague has also said that the government’s decision to delay parts of its obesity strategy is “morally reprehensible”.
Instead of keeping junk food cheap, surely, many argue, the problem can be tackled by raising taxes on unhealthy food and using it to fund fruit and veg supply chains and making it easier to eat healthily. The question has also been raised of teaching people to cook from scratch, starting with children whilst they are still at school, rather than building up a dependence on junk food, ready meals and takeaways to feed themselves.
It’s no secret that the HFSS legislation has proved unpopular so far with brands who make their living from products which sometimes aren’t the healthiest. Last month, Kellogg’s said it would take the government to court over the curbs preventing some cereals from being placed in key locations in stores due to their high sugar content. But this latest development in the story is really ruffling feathers, coming at a time when the government is facing heavy criticism in many aspects of its policies and can seemingly do nothing right. Many are commenting that Boris Johnson really has given up his chance to leave a lasting legacy in the fight against obesity and the crippling cost of it on the NHS.