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Plans to ban unhealthy foods from supermarket checkouts expected on October 1 as UK's obesity policies are reviewed




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Plans to ban unhealthy foods from supermarket entrances, checkouts and the ends of aisles from October are expected to go ahead despite a review into the UK's obesity strategy.

Supermarkets and larger convenience stores have been gearing up to rearrange the layouts of their shops and relocate some foods in readiness for new rules next month, that would control the positioning of foods high in sugar, salt or fat.

While the government is reviewing obesity policies, rules controlling where unhealthy food is located are expected. Image: iStock.
While the government is reviewing obesity policies, rules controlling where unhealthy food is located are expected. Image: iStock.

Restrictions on supermarkets using multi-buy - or BOGOF - deals to sell unhealthy foods have already been delayed until October next year because of the cost of living crisis while plans for a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm have also been shelved for at least a year.

But curbs on where retail bosses can stack, promote and sell sugary, salty and fatty food and drink from are expected to still be implemented next month.

This could signal an end to having chocolate bars, sweets and fizzy drinks at till points which can tempt shoppers waiting in line and stop customers being greeted by large promotions of seasonal items such as Christmas sweets or Easter eggs as they walk through the doors.

Promotions of unhealthy foods at the end of supermarket aisles could also be affected.

Promotions at the ends of aisles could be scrapped under new rules expected on October 1. Image: File photo.
Promotions at the ends of aisles could be scrapped under new rules expected on October 1. Image: File photo.

The new rules, if implemented, are expected to apply to large and medium sized businesses with 50 employees or more, which means numerous supermarkets, shops and convenience stores are likely to be affected.

Some retailers, including Sainsbury's supermarkets, have already put up signs in recent weeks explaining to customers why they may notice shelves being shuffled around in readiness for the anticipated change that will see the location of some foods altered.

However, ministers are reportedly now conducting a major internal review into the country's obesity policies, first set out by former PM Boris Johnson, throwing some future policies in doubt.

Alongside possibly reversing plans to ban junk food advertising before 9pm and conducting a u-turn on supermarkets not being allowed to offer promotions on unhealthy foods there are suggestions new Prime Minister Liz Truss could also agree to scrapping the mandatory calorie labelling of restaurant and cafe menus, which came into force this April, and could reverse the impending ban on unlimited refills of fizzy drinks that is also in the pipeline.

The Guardian, which first reported news of a review, also suggested that the tax on high-sugar soft drinks brought in back in 2018 could also be revisited.

Some of the UK's obesity policies are now being reviewed, news which has angered some charities. Image: iStock.
Some of the UK's obesity policies are now being reviewed, news which has angered some charities. Image: iStock.

But the suggestion that policies to help the nation cut back on the amount of sugar and fat it consumes could be scrapped or watered-down has angered some health campaigners.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chair of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt says scrapping the policies everyone was expecting would be 'disastrous' for both public health and the many food businesses which have spent years and vast amounts of money preparing for the changes they were told were coming.

He added: "Now, more than ever, the UK population need equitable access to healthy, affordable food and this can only be achieved with policies designed to rebalance our food system. The Government must now commit to key measures such as mandatory targets for calories, sugar and salt reduction, well-enforced marketing and promotions restrictions (including shortening the delay to ban junk food multi-buys) and clearer and mandatory food labelling.

"Our new Prime Minister must also honour Number 10's levelling up promise and protect the nation’s health from the devastating effects of unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, salt and sugar (and lacks fruit and vegetables), which is the biggest cause of death and disability globally and costs the UK more than £100 billion combined annually."

The Food Foundation campaigns for a sustainable food system which delivers health and wellbeing for all. Image: Stock photo.
The Food Foundation campaigns for a sustainable food system which delivers health and wellbeing for all. Image: Stock photo.

According to the Broken Plate report, compiled by the Food Foundation, food considered to be 'more healthy' is three times more expensive than less healthy food, calorie for calorie, while snacks and meals high in sugar and fat are just 40% of the cost of fruit and veg when compared per 1,000 calories.

Children in the most deprived neighbourhoods are also ten times more likely to be living with severe obesity at the age of 11 says the organisation which campaigns for greater equality.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the foundation says it is very concerned that the government could be about to u-turn on obesity prevention policies in the name of cutting 'red tape'.

She said: "Rolling back obesity prevention measures would be a grave economic mis-step when Organisation for Economic Co-operation data shows that obesity decreases GDP and results in higher taxes to the tune of £500 per person per year."



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