Ban on HFSS foods promotion delayed; rules limiting siting in-store to go ahead

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Britain will delay by a year new rules banning multi-buy deals on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS), with the government saying on Saturday it needed more time given the cost of living crisis.

The ban on the deals, including “buy one get one free” (BOGOF), “3 for 2”, and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks, had been due to come into force in October.

“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,” public health minister Maggie Throup said.

Economies across the world have been affected by higher than expected global energy and goods prices, partly because of the war in Ukraine, leading to increased costs across supply chains that are affecting both businesses and consumers.

The government said new rules banning HFSS adverts on television before 9 p.m. and paid-for adverts online would also be paused for a year, meaning they will not come into force until January 2024.

This was blamed on a delay to the legislative process, as well as a “growing recognition that the industry needs more time to prepare”.

However, new rules limiting the location of HFSS foods in stores will go ahead as planned in October.

These will mean less healthy products can no longer be promoted in the most visible locations, such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents.

The legislation affects all retailers who trade under symbol groups, shops exceeding 2,000 square foot and those with more than 50 employees.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has warned that the ongoing chaos over the introduction of HFSS regulations will serve only to impose more costs for consumers and cause confusion for local shops.

“The Government’s insistence on pushing ahead with costly and confusing regulations at a time when consumers and retailers are facing significant financial pressure is nothing short of astonishing,” James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said.

“While everyone else is trying to navigate the worst cost of living and cost of business crisis in memory, the government is regulating to send officials round to shops with tape measures to make sure yoghurt and pizza aren’t displayed too close to the door or on the end of an aisle.”

Lowman said the shops have no option but to pass the costs associated with the location restrictions to customers.

“Going ahead with the location restrictions in October this year, costing thousands of pounds per store will have a huge impact on thousands of small businesses that are already struggling to make ends meet. Retailers cannot absorb these costs, they will ultimately have to pass them onto their customers during the same month that everyone’s energy costs are set to skyrocket,” he said.

“We once again urge the Government to rethink these regulations, and to properly consider the implications for retailers and consumers.”