New legislation to restrict the placement and price promotion of products high in fat, sugar and salt is to be introduced in Wales.
The new law, which will be introduced in 2024 and will be rolled out across Wales by 2025, builds on the commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity by restricting the ways foods high in fat, sugar or salt can be promoted.
This will include volume-based promotions, such as multi-buys and restrictions on where products high in fat, sugar or salt can be displayed, such as at the end of aisles. Also intended to be included, to address the scale of the challenge, will be temporary price promotions and meal deals. Whilst this would not ban meal deals or other types of promotion it would restrict the inclusion of the unhealthiest products.
Products that are high in fat, sugar or salt tend to be more heavily promoted and given higher prominence in stores. This encourages unplanned impulse buys, with people buying, consuming and spending more on unhealthy foods than they intended.
Over 60% of adults in Wales are above a healthy weight, and over a quarter of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school. This can have a significant effect on people’s health, with levels of obesity related diseases such as type 2 diabetes at record levels in Wales.
Public Health Wales recent Time To Talk Public Health survey showed strong public support for government action to make our food healthier, with 57 per cent of people agreed that governments should use financial tools like taxes to reduce sugar in foods with high levels and eighty four per cent of respondents said they intend to take action within the next 12 months to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Whilst the legislation will not apply to all high fat, sugar and salt products, it will target food and drinks 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.
Evidence is still being considered on other proposals consulted on at the same time, including evidence in out of home settings, such as calorie labelling and on ending the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.
The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said:
“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.
“This is an important part of the jigsaw as part of our Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy as part of a multi-component approach. Our next generation deserve a different ‘normal’ where healthier foods are more available, affordable and appealing, and high fat, sugar and salt foods are not a core part of our diet. Our current and future generations deserve better.”
Gemma Roberts, Co-Chair of Obesity Alliance Cymru says:
“Obesity Alliance Cymru is hugely supportive of Welsh Government’s Healthy Weight Healthy Wales strategy. There is an obesity crisis in Wales, and we are pleased to see the Welsh Government proposing legislation which will support the people of Wales to make healthy choices.
Price promotions are marketing techniques used to drive sales and increase consumption. They are not free gifts and they do not save us money. We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and consumers are being bombarded with price promotions which increase spending on the unhealthiest products. Wales needs to shift the balance and support families to make buying fruit and veg easier”.
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.
A consultation on enforcement measures will be taken forward later this year.