The food industry has criticised the government’s newly published consultation on plans to restrict promotions of food and drink products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).
Under the new plans, retailers would no longer be able to offer volume-based price promotions on HFSS products such as buy one get one free.
Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should have delayed the launch of the consultation until after MPs vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
“This consultation – already late – should have waited until the certainty we face is resolved,” he stated. “What’s more, this proposed plan is both wrong-headed and muddled. A promotions ban would make shopping more expensive and reduce choice.”
Placing restrictions on promotions would limit consumer choice and stop new products being listed in stores, Rycroft claimed. Start-ups would find it harder to enter the market, he suggested.
“Promotions also play a big role in making food affordable,” he added. “Government data shows that, on average, people would have to spend £364 a year more for the same food if promotions were banned.”
Rycroft also claimed the restrictions would thwart the industry’s efforts to reformulate products to reduce sugars, calories and fat.
Retailers would not be able to promote reformulated products over less healthy alternatives if all HFSS food and drink was banned.
“But that’s what the Government wants to do,” Rycroft stated. “This is a bizarre and contradictory public health policy.”
In their response to the Government’s consultation, retailers have focused on the impracticality of product siting restrictions.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, commented: “Restrictions on where products can be located in store would be particularly difficult to implement for small shops with limited space. The Government must ensure that small shops are exempt from these restrictions.”
The industry can view the DHSC consultation until April 6.