Posted: Tue 27th Jun 2023

Wales to regulate unhealthy food promotion in bid to combat growing obesity crises

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2023

The Welsh Government is poised to introduce a groundbreaking new law aimed at combating the growing obesity crisis.

Set to take effect in 2024 and full implementation by 2025, the legislation will restrict the placement and price promotion of food products high in fat, sugar, or salt.

Under the new law, volume-based promotions such as multi-buys will be restricted, and limitations will be placed on where certain products can be displayed in stores, such as at the end of aisles.

Temporary price promotions and meal deals featuring unhealthy products will also be regulated, although the legislation stops short of outright banning them.

These restrictions are designed to discourage impulse buying of unhealthy foods, a factor largely contributing to overconsumption and obesity.

Over 60% of adults in Wales and over a quarter of children are overweight or obese, marking this issue as a significant public health concern.

Public Health Wales recently carried out a Time To Talk Public Health survey, showing a strong public consensus in favour of government intervention to promote healthier diets.

According to the survey, 57% of respondents believe that financial tools, like taxes, should be used to reduce sugar in foods with high levels.

Furthermore, 84% of respondents said they intend to take action within the next 12 months to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

This new law, while not applicable to all high fat, sugar and salt products, will target those that contribute most to obesity.

It is hoped these measures will encourage the food and retail industry to consider how healthier options can be made more available and affordable, so that no-one is priced out of a healthy diet.

This could include providing more promotions on healthier food or reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of products that currently fall under the restrictions.

To make it easier for the food industry to operate across borders, products which fall under the new legislation will aim to align with the same products included within England’s legislation.

Welsh Government will also work closely with the food industry to provide guidance and support them to reformulate products to reduce levels of fat, sugar or salt.

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, expressed the government’s commitment towards healthier food environments, stating, This legislation will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales.”

“Whilst similar legislation is also being introduced in England, I am minded to include temporary price reductions and meal deals within our restrictions.”

“We will not be banning any product or type of promotion, our aim is to rebalance our food environments towards healthier products, so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.”

The Welsh Government is also set to collaborate closely with the food industry.

The aim is to provide guidance and support in the reformulation of products to reduce levels of fat, sugar or salt.

Products covered by the new legislation will align with the same ones included within England’s legislation, to ease cross-border operations for the food industry.

However, not everyone agrees with the new measures. Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health, James Evans MS, voiced concerns about potential increases in the weekly shopping costs amidst the ongoing cost of living pressures.

He said: “Obesity is a pressing issue across the Western world that is a costly drain on the limited resources of our precious Welsh NHS and it is a shame that is has taken the Welsh Government this long to address the problem.”

“However, during the cost of living pressures we are all facing, we need cast iron assurances from the Welsh Labour Government that they do not intend to ban meal deals and that any new regulations will not increase the average weekly cost for shoppers.”

Dr Ilona Johnson, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales welcomes this new legislation to support people to make the healthier choices we know they want to make.”

“With over 60 per cent of adults and over a quarter of children under five now overweight or obese, this is a serious issue in Wales.”

“This is an incredibly complex issue and there is no single solution.”

“We know that from the evidence that policies targeting the food environment are effective and a strong legislative framework is an important step in helping us to shift the balance towards healthier choices and healthier people.”

While this legislation marks a significant step in fighting obesity, further proposals, including calorie labelling and ending the sale of energy drinks to children under 16, are still under consideration.

The consultation on enforcement measures is also set to be carried forward later this year, further solidifying Wales’ commitment to public health and wellbeing.

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