Unhealthy meal deals and multi-buy promotions that include junk food are going to be banned in Wales from next year, officials have announced.
The move aims to improve diets and prevent obesity by restricting foods high in fat, sugar and salt from being included in offers, the Welsh Government said.
Under the sweeping new rules, unhealthy food will no longer be displayed at the end of aisles or other prominent locations in a bid to reduce impulse purchases.
Similar rules, although not for meal deals, were due to come into force in England in October but have been postponed for two years amid sky-high food prices.
Health campaigners say the approach is vital to curb Britain’s bulging waistline, reduce ill health and ease pressure on the NHS, while critics label it a ‘nanny state’ policy.
The move aims to improve diets and prevent obesity by restricting foods high in fat, sugar and salt from being included in offers, the Welsh Government said
The Welsh Government said the new law, which will ‘improve diets and help prevent obesity’, will be introduced in 2024 and rolled out across the country by 2025.
Supermarkets including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s offer meal deals that combine a sandwich, drink and snack for a set price.
The legislation will only target high fat, sugar and salt food and drink that contribute most to obesity. All businesses with more than 50 people will have to comply.
It did not name specific products that restrictions would apply to.
Earlier this year, a study found that only a quarter of the deals have fewer than 600 calories — the Government’s recommendation for lunch — and the worst offender, which was not named, contained 1,329 calories.
Six in 10 adults in England and Wales are above a healthy weight and more than a quarter of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school.
Weighing too much increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
A Public Health Wales survey showed strong public support for action to make food healthier, with 57 per cent supporting taxes to reduce sugar in foods and 84 per cent of respondents planning to achieve or maintain a healthy weight in the next year.
The measures will encourage the food and retail industry to consider how healthier options can be made more affordable — such as offering promotions on healthier food or reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of food — so ‘no one is priced out of a healthy diet’, the Government hopes.
Officials are still considering whether other obesity-fighting measures — such as displaying calories on restaurant menus and banning the sale of energy drinks to under-16s — should also be rolled out.
Lynne Neagle, the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said the legislation ‘will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales’.
She said: ‘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.’
Ms Neagle added: ‘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: ‘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.’
It comes after Rishi Sunak earlier this month postponed a ban on ‘buy one, get one free’ deals after colleagues condemned the ‘nanny state’ plan.
The Prime Minister said it was not right to press ahead with the plan, part of an obesity crackdown, amid the cost of living crisis.
The policy had already been delayed until October 2023. It has now be extended for a further two years.
Mr Sunak had been facing a revolt over the issue after a government impact assessment found the move would save people three calories a day. Tory MP Philip Davies branded the policy ‘bonkers’.
The PM said: ‘I firmly believe in people’s right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop.
‘It is right that we consider carefully the impact on consumers and businesses, while ensuring we’re striking the balance with our important mission to reduce obesity and help people live healthier lives.’