Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) has strongly criticised Scottish government proposals to restrict grocery promotions such as multibuys in stores as lacking in evidence, badly thought through and unenforceable.

SGF was responding to a major Scottish government consultation on reducing harm from foods deemed to be high in fat, salt and sugar. The consultation period ended today.

Measures announced in the consultation, following from the the Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan published in July 2018, included: Restricting promotion of targeted foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar (including multi-buys, upselling, use of coupons and promotion of value); Restricting the location where targeted foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar can be sold in within a store environment and Restricting the sale of energy drinks to under 16s.

The Plan, ‘A Healthier Future’, aims to halve childhood obesity in Scotland by 2030.

The SGF submission highlighted that the government has not yet defined which products would be included in the proposed restrictions and as such it was almost impossible to fully assess the impact on the convenience sector.

The consultation document also stated that ‘upselling’ would no longer be permitted. In effect this means that staff asking customers if they would like a muffin with their coffee could be committing an offence, noted a statement from the trade association.

Dr John Lee, head of public affairs at the SGF, said: “Retailers should be allowed to use a wide range of promotions to ensure they stay competitive and provide customers with the value for money they have come to expect.

“At the moment we simply don’t know the full range of products which would be caught up in new regulations – full technical specifications should have been published before this consultation was launched. It will be very difficult for retailers to accurately assess which products will be restricted.

“Additionally we fail to see how any new regulations– which will undoubtedly be quite baffling for both retailers and customers – can be effectively enforced.”

The government has indicated that any new regulations would be enforced by local authorities. It also proposed setting up an ‘expert technical panel’ to develop new definitions of foods deemed to be high in fat salt and sugar.