The Government’s decision to delay a ban on two-for-one deals on unhealthy and fattening foods has been criticized by health campaigners including Jamie Oliver, who have called it a ‘wasted opportunity’ which undermines the efforts of the countries to fight obesity.
The celebrity chef said a ban on TV junk food adverts before a 9pm shift, which has been suspended for a year, was essential to protect children’s health.
Ministers said they were also postponing a ban on buy-one-get-one-free offers for foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in England for 12 months so they can examine the impact on family budgets in the face of the cost of living crisis.
The move was welcomed by industry and some Tory MPs opposed to state interference in how people spend their money, but it has alarmed health campaigners.
Mr Oliver tweeted: “We know it is vital to protect children’s health and ensure the next generation does not suffer from diet-related illnesses. Policies such as restricting junk food advertising to children are crucial to taking it to the next level and are popular with the public.
“It’s a wasted opportunity and it’s starting to erode the whole obesity strategy – which at one point seemed progressive and leading in writing, but falls apart when it comes to acting on those policies. .
“Parents and children no longer want to hear excuses from the government. I really hope Prime Minister @BorisJohnson proves me wrong and shows real leadership to give young people a healthier and fairer future.”
The delay was also criticized by former health minister Lord Bethell, who said failure to tackle the “obesity crisis” would only increase NHS costs.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I fear this will blow up the obesity strategy. This has a massive tracking effect on all of our health goals.
“More and more people are getting cancer because of obesity-related effects. Thus, the 10-year plan against cancer, the extra five years of longevity and many other of our health goals suffer.
“All this disease caused by (being) overweight from junk food is carried by the NHS and by the taxpayer.”
Lord Bethell, who piloted moves to ban multiple purchasing deals before he was sacked as health minister last year, wondered if ministers would be able to move forward with the ban in the current Parliament in the face of opposition rooted in the Conservative ranks.
“I think the government should really focus its armor on reducing the obesity crisis rather than playing chorus,” he said.
“What we’re seeing in supermarkets right now is an arms race against junk food. That has to change.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said the ban on multi-buy promotions will now come into effect in October 2023, while the ban on TV commercials before 9 p.m. is delayed until January 2024.
Public Health Minister Maggie Throup insisted the government remained committed to tackling the problem of childhood obesity.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to help people live healthier lives,” she said.
“Suspending restrictions on offers such as buy-one-get-one-free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.”
The industry body, the Food and Drink Federation, hailed the “pragmatism” of the government’s action.
Kate Halliwell, its Chief Scientific Officer, said: “At a time when families and our manufacturers are grappling with high inflation, it makes sense to delay restrictions on volume promotions for food and drink products from all over the world. days, including breakfast cereals, ready meals and yogurts, as this risked further straining already strained household budgets.
“We also welcome the delay in the start of advertising restrictions, given the time it will take for our industry to prepare for the change in law.”
The DHSC said restrictions on the placement of less healthy products in stores and supermarkets will still come into effect in October as planned.
Last month, calorie labeling laws in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways came into effect.