Call for crackdown on junk food price deals to tackle obesity

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The first minister has been urged to restrict price promotions on food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt to help fight Scotland's obesity "crisis".

Health groups and campaigners say multi-buy price reductions "encourage people to buy a greater number of unhealthy products".

Nearly 30% of adults and 13% of children in Scotland are obese.

The Scottish government has vowed tackle health inequalities and reduce childhood obesity by 50% by 2030.

The Scottish Obesity Alliance is among 20 health charities and professional bodies to have signed a letter calling on Nicola Sturgeon to include legislation in this autumn's Programme for Government.

It says: "Whilst the rate of childhood obesity levels has slowed down, it has not stopped or started to decline. This is a major public health crisis.

"It is time to be bold, for the Scottish government to introduce legislation this year to regulate HFSS multi-buy price promotions.

"You will have the overwhelming support of the public and public health professionals if you act without delay."

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Image caption,
Multi-pack deals on crisps and other snacks could be targeted

Prof Steve Turner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "More than 28% of children in Scotland are overweight or obese.

"Research tells us that the food and drink children see strongly influences the food choices they make and how much they eat.

"With this in mind, in order to address Scotland's obesogenic environment, Scottish government must be bold in the restrictions it places on price promotion and marketing."

Gordon Matheson, of Cancer Research UK, added: "Carrying too much weight is the most common cause of avoidable cancer in Scotland after smoking and is a major public health crisis.

"Scotland cannot afford any delays in bringing forward legislation to tackle the price promotion of junk food. The need for regulation is compelling and the public is supportive."

'Damaging relationship with junk food'

A Scottish government spokesman said tackling obesity was "a public health priority".

He added: "Our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan includes a wide range of bold measures designed to help families make healthier choices.

"One key component is ending our nation's damaging relationship with junk food that is high in fat, sugar or salt, and reducing associated health harms.

"One of the ways we are seeking to do this is by restricting the promotion and marketing of some of discretionary foods high in fat, sugar or salt with little or no nutritional benefit.

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"We have consulted on the steps to achieve this and our analysis will be published in the near future."

However, any potential sales restriction has been criticised by industry body Food and Drink Federation Scotland.

Its chief executive David Thomson said: "There is no evidence that restricting food and drink promotions will reduce our waist lines. What it will do is increase the cost of your weekly shop and add confusion for shoppers.

"Small Scottish businesses who sell more of their products in Scotland will be disproportionately affected by restrictions, such as banning end-of-floor displays and free samples."

He added: "We are already working in partnership with Scottish government and the food and drink industry to make Scottish products healthier. Scottish government should continue to focus on supporting the industry's efforts."