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MPs have backed calls for a major clampdown on ‘junk food’ promotions in-store as well as on TV, as ministers prepare to unveil the new Childhood Obesity Plan Mark 2.

The House of Commons health and social care committee said yesterday that regulation was needed to tackle the “appalling” obesity crisis.

The committee, which has grilled industry bosses and health experts during its inquiry into obesity, also called for an extension of the sugar tax to cover added-sugar milk drinks, along with a 9pm watershed to ban advertising of HFSS foods.

The committee’s backing for draconian action comes as Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt are said to be lining up tougher measures, including a promotions ban, amid criticism that the original obesity plan, launched in 2016, did not go far enough.

The Scottish government is due to release its own obesity strategy within weeks, which it has already indicated will include a move to ban promotions such as multi-buy deals on HFSS foods.

Health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, said: “The government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed. It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink. I welcome the sugary drinks levy that has already played a vital role in driving reformulation and call for this to be extended to milky drinks which contain added sugar.”

Last week The Grocer revealed food and drink industry leaders were preparing to launch a legal challenge if the government does goes ahead with plans for a ban on promotions, with one leading source saying a challenge was “almost inevitable”.

Supplier organisations have already engaged lawyers to begin preparing a case against the looming ban on HFSS multi-buys such as bogofs and other promotional mechanics, which suppliers claim would be an illegal restraint on competition.

Any legal challenge could come from an individual company, several companies working together or be spearheaded by the Food and Drink Federation.

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