The Scottish Government has already pledged to change the law to restrict “unhealthier food and drink promotions”.
Ministers hope the changes, which could bar “buy one, get one free” deals and three for the price of two promotions on items, will encourage people to eat more healthily.
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Drinks promotions, where customers can have unlimited refills of sugary soft drinks for a fixed price, could be ended. Shops could also be barred form displaying certain foods in key areas of the store – such as around the checkouts and at the end of aisles.
A consultation that has now been launched also asks what categories of food should be included in the coming legislation.
Ministers want to know if the legislation should be applied only to “discretionary” items – such as sweets, biscuits, crisps, savory snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings and soft drinks – or if other products should be included.
Options being consulted on include applying the restrictions to ice cream and dairy desserts, as well as to other items including breakfast cereals, sweetened yoghurts, pizzas and ready meals.
This approach would be “consistent with those set out in the UK Government regulations for England”, the consultation notes.
However, ministers are also considering if other categories of foods – including garlic bread, pies and quiches, savory biscuits, crackers and crispbreads, table sauces and dressings, processed meat products and sweet spreads – should also be covered by the restrictions.
Speaking as the consultation, which will run until September 23, was launched, public health minister Maree Todd said: “Our diets remain too high in calories, fat, sugar and salt which can have serious consequences for our overall health.”
She added: “In Scotland, two out of three adults are overweight or obese, with those living in our poorest areas more likely to be overweight and experience the most harm as a result.
“We know that promotions can encourage over-consumption and impulse buying.”
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) welcomed the consultation, with head of nutrition science and policy Dr Gillian Purdon saying: “Restricting promotions of these types of foods is one way to support people to make healthier choices.” Meanwhile Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy, said there was much they could support.
He insisted retailers were already “committed to helping consumers make healthier choices”, with the sector having “led the way on reformulating products to reduce salt, sugar, and fat”.
Mr MacDonald-Russell continued: “Most retailers have reduced or removed multi-buy promotions of less healthy products, and we think there is a good case for putting this into legislation to ensure a level playing field.
“Similarly, there is an opportunity to align definitions across the UK which would ensure the policy is both more effective and less disruptive to retailers who operate both within and outwith Scotland.”
Mr MacDonald-Russell said it was “sensitive” the Scottish Government was not currently considering reducing restrictions on temporary price promotions, saying these helped shops attract customers and keep prices down.
“With inflation running at a 14-year-high it would be regressive and irresponsible to put up costs in this manner with no evidence at this time that it would significantly improve public health,” he said.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.