MPs call for end of junk food deals

Tue, 28 Mar 2017

A group of MPs has said that more must be done by the government to reduce the amount of multi-buy and reduced price offers available on unhealthy foods.

A Health Select Committee report also demands stricter regulations placed on junk food advertisements.

It also claims that government's official plan to tackle obesity contains "vague statements" that are "inadequate".

Ministers say however, that the plan represents the "most ambitious plan on childhood obesity".

The main components of the governmental childhood obesity plan, were the introduction of a sugar levy and a 20% per cent voluntary sugar reduction target, with the aim being for all products to reach this target by 2020.

Despite the introduction of these measures, health organisations and campaigners were almost entirely in agreement that there needs to be wider action taken.

In the latest Health Select Committee report, MPs made further calls for greater regulations to be introduced regarding multibuy deals and price reductions on unhealthy food, backing up their statement with research from the food industry; the research states that 'responsible retailers', who actively attempt to promote healthier choices, are being disadvantaged by those that offer reductions of foods with high fat and sugar contents.

Public Health England has recently confirmed that it will be investigating the effect of price promotions on sugar intake.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures suggest that the amount of food and drink bought on promotion in the UK has reduced from 40% to 26%.

Director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: "Evidence shows that more retailers are moving towards low prices, these multi-buys are already diminishing because that's what consumers want.

"They want surety [of low prices] at point of purchase."

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, a representative of the consortium, said retailers were enacting their own policies and methods in order to promote healthier products, and last Christmas was "one of the first times when there was a real price war over carrots" and other healthier products.

However, she also said that it would require an agreement from the entire industry if junk food promotions were to be reduced.

The MPs also suggested a range of measures to regulate junk food adverts seen by children on TV, such as extending current restrictions to apply across all programmes that children are likely to watch rather than to just programming specifically aimed at children.

Committee chairman Dr Sarah Wollaston said: "We are extremely disappointed that the government has rejected a number of our recommendations.

"These omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity.

"Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge."

Responding to the report, public health minister Nicola Blackwood said: "We welcome the committee's recognition of the progress we have made in this area, delivering the most ambitious plan on childhood obesity in the world.

"It is backed by the soft drinks industry levy as well as the most comprehensive reformulation programme of its kind, anywhere."

She added: "Voluntary approaches have been shown to be very effective, but as we have repeatedly said, we have not ruled out further measures if results are not seen."
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