Scottish government ditches bill to restrict in-store food promotions

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Scottish government has revealed that it no longer intends to introduce a bill to restrict in-store food promotions in the current parliament.

Answering a question in the parliament on 11 June, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the move is necessitated by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on retailers as well as the consumer behavior.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, including on the food and drink and retail industries and on consumer behaviour. It is not yet clear what its long term impact will be,” he said.

“It is important we understand this fully and that we assess the economic and equality impacts of our proposed measures post-pandemic.”

The Restricting Foods Promotions Bill follows from the Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan published in July 2018 and a consultation in January 2019, which proposed restrictions on the in-store marketing and promotion of junk food – products high in fat, sugar or salt, with little or no nutritional benefit.

Confectionery, sweet biscuits, crisps, savoury snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings, and soft drinks with added sugar were included in the targeted foods and the proposed restrictions includes, among other things, multi-buys, display at checkouts, purchase rewards such as vouchers and loyalty card points, unlimited refills and upselling of increased sizes or extra products and other marketing activities where they are being sold.

The government announced the bill in September 2019 in response to the consultation.

FitzPatrick added that the government may consider a “more wide-ranging bill” to tackle Scotland’s diet and weight problem after the pandemic.

“We remain fully committed to restricting the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt where they are sold to the public and will seek to progress this measure as soon as it is possible to do so,” he added.

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland has welcomed the move, saying the bill would have caused a devastating economic impact on smaller Scottish food businesses.

“Our food and drink manufacturers are facing increasingly difficult times due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, as well as the uncertainty around the UK’s future trade deals with the EU and further afield. We call on the Scottish Government to continue to work with us to ensure our vital sector is supported to recover and prosper into the future,” David Thomson, chief executive of FDF Scotland, said.