The Welsh Government wants to restrict deals on junk food

sugary drinks
-Credit: (Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)

The Welsh Government wants to ban promotions on unhealthy food and drinks and restrict the places they can be sold in supermarkets. It also wants to ban places being able to offer free refills on sugary drinks.

Wales' health minister Eluned Morgan has released details of a consultation that would see restrictions in three main areas:

  1. Restrictions on retailers putting food and drink which is high in fat, sugar and salt in shop entrances, at the end of aisles, checkouts or their online equivalents, such as the shopping basket or payment pages

  2. No multibuy offers, buy one get one free, for example, on food and drink which is high in fat, sugar and salt so there is no financial incentive for people buying more

  3. A ban on retailers giving free refills on sugary drinks

The health minister has written in the consultation document: "Over 60% of the population is living with obesity or overweight. We know that obesity and overweight is associated with many physical and mental health problems across our life course. I intend for this to be the first in a package of measures to improve the health of our food environments across Wales and to support the public to live healthier lives.

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"As a nation, the food choices we are led to make contain too many calories and are too high in fat, sugar and salt. We want to support individuals to make healthier choices by restricting the promotion of food and drink which is high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) and by encouraging the promotion of healthier products."

The restrictions would cover:

• Soft drinks with added sugar

• Cakes

• Chocolate confectionery

• Sugar confectionery

• Ice cream

• Morning goods (for example pastries)

• Puddings and dairy desserts

• Sweet biscuits

• Breakfast cereals

• Yoghurts

• Milk-based drinks with added sugar

• Juice based drinks with added sugar

• Pizza

• Ready meals

• Meal centres (pre-prepared meals, meal kits etc).

• Breaded and battered products

• Crisps and savoury snacks

• Chips and similar potato products

Ms Morgan has said the regulations would be voted on in the Senedd before the end of 2024 and, subject to Senedd approval, to come into force in 2025. Impacted businesses and enforcement bodies will have 12 months to implement the new rules.

Ms Morgan said: "This legislation represents a significant step towards our ambition for a healthier food environment; it will encourage the food industry to take steps to provide a more balanced food offer for people and communities in Wales."

It will cover medium and large retailers (those with 50 or more employees), but will exclude things like certain social care settings, military establishments and educational institutions, restaurants (except the drink refill ban), and specialist businesses which only sell one of the above list of items.

Compliance will fall to councils and enforcement officers will have to check businesses are compiling. There will be a range of enforcement options open to councils, including civil penalties rather than criminal penalties. Fines could be issued.

The Welsh Government has previously discussed restrictions on meal deals, something it says it is "continuing to explore". She said she is also asking for further evidence about the consumption of energy drinks by children.

Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Sam Rowlands MS said: "Nanny state plans like these are a distraction from Labour’s atrocious NHS record here in Wales. These frankly over the top regulations will hit people in their pockets, exacerbating the cost of living for the poorest in society, yet Keir Starmer calls this his blueprint for Britain.

"While healthy eating is important, the Welsh Conservatives believe that you have a right to decide what you eat and drink. Clearly Labour do not."