SNP to ban meal deals in crackdown on junk food

·3-min read
The Scottish Government has suggested a far tougher scheme for improving diets than has been proposed in England, including banning meal deals - Rii Schroer
The Scottish Government has suggested a far tougher scheme for improving diets than has been proposed in England, including banning meal deals - Rii Schroer

Supermarket meal deals are set to be banned and new price restrictions could be imposed on everyday items such as pasta, pies and bread under an SNP crackdown on junk food.

In a new consultation, the Scottish Government has suggested a far tougher scheme for improving diets than has been proposed in England and also opened the door to axing temporary discounts on unhealthy items.

Retailers said that while they backed some of the proposals, any move to curtail time-limited price offers would be “regressive and irresponsible”, with many families already struggling to make ends meet due to soaring food costs and inflation.

In a consultation document, the devolved administration said it planned to ban multi-buys, such as buy-one-get-one-free offers, where this included "pre-packed" food with low nutritional value.

It is planned that popular meal deals, where customers typically get a sandwich, snack and a drink for a set price, would fall within the scope of the policy if any of the items are deemed too unhealthy.

Unlimited refills of sugary drinks, common in some restaurants, would come to an end under the proposals, alongside new restrictions on where items can be displayed in shops.

The SNP Government said it was “seeking views” on whether temporary price reductions, such as half price deals, should end although it has not yet made a final decision.

The government is also consulting on what items should be caught by the new restrictions.

Under the most extreme option, this would go significantly beyond the rest of the UK by including items such as garlic bread, crispbread, savoury biscuits and some pasta, rice, noodle and egg dishes.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) backed measures that would help customers make “healthier choices” but said it would strongly oppose any move to end temporary price reductions.

“There is much in this consultation Scottish retailers can support,” Ewan MacDonald-Russell, the SRC’s head of policy, said. “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.

“We also note the Scottish Government does not currently support introducing restrictions on temporary price promotions. This is a sensible approach.

“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.”

Plans shelved due to pandemic

The SNP government had proposed similar measures in 2017, but the plans were shelved due to the Covid pandemic. It claims action is necessary as two out of three adults in the country are overweight or obese.

The UK Government is planning to implement a crackdown on junk food in England, under plans deferred until October 2023. However, meal deals will not be included on the basis that they are mainly “lunch options for adults” which are unlikely to be “stockpiled” at home.

There will also be no ban on temporary price promotions south of the border and Scottish ministers are considering including foods in the curbs that would not be caught by English laws. The Scottish consultation will run until September.

Maree Todd, the SNP public health minister, said: “We know that promotions can encourage over-consumption and impulse buying.

“By restricting the promotion of less healthy food and drink we can better support people to make healthier choices and help create a Scotland where everyone eats well and has a healthy weight.”

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