Suppliers have been given fresh hope for a last-minute overhaul of plans to crack down on HFSS promotions, following reports that the Treasury has launched a review of the plans.
Today The Guardian reported that the review had been ordered as part of a wider campaign to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, with the ban on promotions expected to cost more than £1billion a year in lost sales.
During her leadership campaign, Prime Minister Liz Truss suggested she would scrap the already-delayed ban on multiple buy-side offers, such as bogofs, but The Grocer reported last month that some vendor sources hoped for a broader pullback, despite a ban on location promotions due to go live in October.
The Guardian quoted Whitehall sources as saying the review was ‘focused on deregulation’ and said it could lead to the scrapping of a series of anti-obesity policies inherited from Boris Johnson.
He says the review would examine the possibility of removing calorie counts from cafe, takeaway and restaurant menus designed to encourage people to choose healthier options, which came into effect in April, as well as plans for a junk food advertising catchment on TV. and an online ban being canned, also having already been delayed for a year.
“People want the government to answer issues like transport, utilities, broadband and reducing NHS waiting lists, rather than ‘telling them what to eat,'” Truss said during his presentation. recent leadership campaign.
The report also sparked new speculation, previously reported by The Grocer, that the government may be reviewing the soft drink sugar tax, which came into force in 2018, as a way to cut costs for the industry.
The government has already rejected plans, set out in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy, to extend taxes to other products.
However, today’s reports have sparked a furious backlash from health campaigners, with almost two-thirds of UK adults overweight or obese and obesity costing the NHS around £1.6billion per year.
“There is no evidence that SDIL is hindering the soft drink industry, despite having removed over 48 million kg of sugar from drinks since 2015,” said Barbara Crowther, director of the Children’s Food Campaign. .
“And the independent impact study found that this was associated with a 30g reduction per week per household in sugar consumption. that would only create more chaos in a food and beverage industry that doesn’t need it.
She added: ‘Clearly this is being suggested as a measure to get the money back to businesses in particular, so there is no public benefit to such a move – it would only hit schools and short-term taxpayers. money, as well as the NHS to deal with dental and diet-related diseases associated with excessive sugar consumption.
“We know Boris Johnson has also threatened to do this before, but after commissioning a review, led by Professor Chris Whitty, the idea was dropped.
“We are now weeks away from implementing localization promotions, and all indications are that the industry has invested a lot of time and energy into compliance now, so bringing in this 11 a.m. mayhem is the last thing we need to do. everyone needs. Both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have of course pledged to end multiple purchase agreements as well, regardless of how late those plans are by 12 months.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, added: “Abandoning the government’s evidence-based obesity strategy would be disastrous both for public health and for the many food companies that have spent years and huge sums of money preparing for this. policy change.
“Now, more than ever, people in the UK need fair access to healthy and affordable food and this can only be achieved with policies designed to rebalance our food system.
“The government must now commit to key measures such as mandatory calorie, sugar and salt reduction targets, well-enforced marketing and promotion restrictions (including shortening the deadline for banning multiple purchases of junk food) and clearer and mandatory food labeling Our new Prime Minister must also honor the leveling promise of number 10 and protect the health of the nation from the devastating effects of unhealthy diets high in saturated fats, salt and sugar (and lacking fruit and vegetables) which is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and costs the UK over £100billion (together) a year.
The Obesity Health Alliance said a rollback on the obesity strategy would be a “kick in the teeth”.
However, trade bodies have stepped up support for a “bureaucracy bonfire”.
FDF chief executive Karen Betts said: ‘Ministers can help our sector by tackling burdensome taxes and unsuitable regulations, as they have pledged to do.
“Ensuring our sector is well positioned to emerge from this crisis is essential – swift action to simplify regulation, reduce bureaucracy and boost productivity will be key, alongside supporting energy costs.”