Eustice yesterday hinted at further delays to HFSS promotion bans

The government could delay a “whole range” of proposed legislation to mitigate the burgeoning cost of living crisis, according to Defra secretary George Eustice - who would not rule out the coming HFSS clampdown from the row back. 

Speaking at the FDF Conference yesterday (22 March), Eustice said government was reviewing a wide selection of proposed legislative changes to mitigate the cost of living crisis amid soaring food inflation, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

When asked directly about the possibility of delaying the clampdown on HFSS for a second time (it was pushed back from April 2022 to October 2022), Eustice said: “We’re looking at every policy that we’ve got.

He said: “There are some important policy agendas on that one in terms of tackling obesity, but, at the moment we’re reviewing a whole raft of different policies just to assess whether now’s the right time to make sure we fully understand the impact on prices and the cost of living.”

“We’re doing a piece of work looking at a whole range of different things that we’re bringing in, looking at the timings, stress-testing them again, looking at what the actual impact might be.

“The only thing I would caution against is sometimes when you have situations like this a lot of people run out and say: ‘No, we should get rid of that thing that I never wanted in the first place’.”

It comes after The Grocer revealed last week that food and drink bosses had urged the government to pause all but critical legislation while the supply chain grappled with disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.

Eustice stressed at the FDF Conference there were still “important policy agendas behind these things: tackling the obesity crisis that we have, and dealing with net zero and our climate change commitments and some of our other environmental commitments as well, so we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater”. 

Nevertheless, the government was “obviously conscious about the inflationary pressures, so we are looking at many of these issues again”, he added.

It comes after research published by GS1 UK this month revealed that suppliers were massively underprepared for the government’s looming ban on HFSS promotions, with up to a fifth of companies completely in the dark about the proposals.