Junk food promotion ban 'paused' by coronavirus

An obese person Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Almost two-thirds of Scots adults are overweight or obese

A new bill to place restrictions on the promotion of junk food have been "paused" by the Scottish government.

The bill, which included measures to ban multi-buy offers and remove junk food displays at checkouts, had been promised within the next year.

But ministers now want to pause and "take stock" in light of the coronavirus pandemic to see if a more wide-ranging plan is needed.

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

Health campaigners have said a firm timetable is needed for the legislation to be resurrected, especially given the Scottish government's target to cut child obesity in Scotland by half by 2030.

Joe FitzPatrick, the minister for public health, said he was no longer planning to introduce the Restricting Food Promotions Bill in this parliament, which ends in May 2021.

The minister said: "We remain fully committed to restricting the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt where they are sold to the public and will seek to progress this measure as soon as it is possible to do so.

"Pausing the introduction of the bill provides us with an opportunity to take stock, take into account the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, including on people's diet and healthy weight."

Image copyright PA
Image caption In 2018 Nicola Sturgeon announced a target to cut child obesity in Scotland by half by 2030 after meeting with chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver

Almost a quarter of children in Scotland are currently starting school at risk of being overweight or obese.

Figures published last year show the problem is worsening for pupils in the poorest areas, while children in affluent areas are much less likely to experience problems with their weight.

People are 'eating more and moving less' in lockdown

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's cancer prevention expert, based at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Junk food price promotions encourage shoppers to stock up on unhealthy items so it's vital we see progress to restrict these harmful offers.

"One of the consequences of lockdown has also been that some people are eating more and moving less. There's also worrying evidence that suggests that Covid-19 affects those who are obese more severely.

"The Scottish government must now set out a firm commitment and clear timeline for when things will get back on track."

'Devastating economic impact'

But David Thomson, of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland trade body, welcomed the announcement.

He said: "The Scottish government has listened to our members' concerns that these proposals would have had a devastating economic impact on smaller Scottish food businesses, who sell the majority of their products in Scotland.

"Our food and drink manufacturers are facing increasingly difficult times due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, as well as the uncertainty around the UK's future trade deals with the EU and further afield."

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