The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has hit out at the Government’s new measures to tackle obesity within the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also added that the proposals will help protect people from coronavirus.

The new measures will see ‘buy one get one free’ deals on unhealthy foods banned, with junk food adverts shown before 9pm also being banned.

Restrictions will also be in place for promoting foods high in fat and in-store, as well as new rules for displaying calories on menus.

Following the announcement, Boris Johnson said the proposals will help: “reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus.”

FDF response

Responding to the news, FDF’s chief operating officer, Tim Rycroft, said: “If the rumours are true, then this will come as a slap in the face to the UK’s food and drink manufacturers and the half a million people we employ, so recently the heroes heralded by Government for feeding the nation during the Covid crisis.

“With household budgets more stretched than ever before, restrictions on promotions and advertising will increase the price of food, reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs and investment across the UK at a precarious economic time.

“The proposals are illogical, flying in the face of the Government’s own reformulation programmes. We could see a ban on promotions of food such as mustard and mint sauce, days before the launch of the Chancellor’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ campaign. Already hard-pressed shoppers can expect to see their weekly shop become more expensive, at an average cost of £600 per family. We could have the Great British Bake Off with no cake adverts allowed. It will place enormous cost on broadcasters, while manufacturers who have done so much to bring new healthier options to market will now find they have no way of bring these to shoppers’ attention.”

Rycroft added: “As the economy struggles to recover, new restrictions on promoting and advertising everyday food and drink will increase the price of food, reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs across the UK. And all to save 17 calories a day.

“A new Government focus on the promotion of physical activity is welcome, but this package looks like a terrible missed opportunity. After months in which people have thought more about diet and exercise, we could have embarked on a bold programme to promote healthier lifestyles and better diet choices – encouraging consumption of fibre, fruit and vegetables. Instead, at the heart of this programme are old and discredited policies that will raise prices, limit choice and hit two of the UK’s most successful industries.

“It is extraordinary that the Government is proposing a ban on promotions of food and drink in retail at such a precarious economic time. With household budgets more stretched than ever before, the Scottish Government recently reversed its decision to press ahead with promotional restrictions. They said the Covid crisis had rendered their impact assessments meaningless. Why are things different in England?

“For more than a decade, our industry has worked willingly with successive Governments to reduce salt, fat and sugars. Government is right in its renewed ambition for a healthier, more active population, but it is also time it put real money behind specific, targeted measures to help those most afflicted by obesity, rather than relying on headline chasing measures.”

“Government is pulling in different directions. From August the Chancellor is paying for people to eat out whilst the Health Secretary is proposing banning promotions on the same foods in supermarkets.

“Further, there is very limited evidence that these measures will effectively tackle obesity. The UK Government’s own figures suggested that proposed bans on advertising and promotions combined would only reduce children’s average calorie consumption by 17 calories per day.

“For more than a decade, our industry has worked willingly with successive Governments to reduce salt, fat and sugars. Government is right in its renewed ambition for a healthier, more active population, but it is also time it put real money behind specific, targeted measures to help those most afflicted by obesity, rather than relying on headline chasing measures.

“If price promotions are banned, already hard-pressed shoppers can expect to see their weekly shop become more expensive, at a cost of £600 per family. We have already seen evidence of this during the current crisis. Government policies should not put further pressure on rising food costs, which will disproportionately hit the tightest household budgets.

“Manufacturers, meanwhile, will see little point in introducing lower-sugar or lower-calories variants of their products into a market in which it will not be possible to advertise or promote them to shoppers. Since 2006, industry has worked in partnership with Government and 100s of everyday products have been reformulated to make them healthier, in-line with Government guidelines. Healthier choices will now fall foul of the Government’s illogical rules. Start-ups and challenger brands will find it much harder to get ‘share of shelf’ against established brands without promotions to raise their profile, leading to less choice for shoppers.”