Both industry leaders and campaign groups said the publication yesterday of detailed guidance on how the measures should work in stores signalled the moves would come in as planned in October, despite weeks of speculation about a ministerial rowback.
The guidance accused the food industry’s promotional environment of flying in the face of its healthy eating guidelines and said it was “making it harder for families to make healthier choices”.
The regulations, which will apply to all large and medium-sized retailers with 50 or more employees, will from October allow local authority inspectors to impose fines of £2,500 per offence if the laws are flouted. There have been estimates the loss in promotional revenue will cost the industry as much as £3bn a year.
The FDF had called for ministers to shelve the plans, which include a ban on any HFSS volume deals including bogofs and promotions in prime locations such as aisle ends.
“It’s disappointing that the UK government has pressed ahead with restrictions on how everyday food and drink products, including breakfast cereals, ready meals, yoghurts and desserts, are promoted in shops,” said FDF CEO Karen Betts.
“This will have a negative impact on the food and drink industry – the government’s own estimates suggest businesses across the country will be hit by costs of over £1bn a year – while the measures are not expected to impact rates of obesity. Our concern is also that, in implementing these measures now, the government is only adding to food price inflation.”
However, Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said she was delighted the guidance appeared to have put to rest continued speculation that the timeframe for the clampdown could be put back, having already been delayed from its original start date of April this year.
“We welcome the publication of the new guidance, which sends a very clear signal of the government’s commitment to implementation of new promotions restrictions from 1 October 2022,” she said.
“We hope this puts an end to the confusion created by recent backbench and backdoor industry lobbying to get the government to dilute or delay their introduction. Retailers and manufacturers must now rise to the challenge and opportunity to put healthier food and drink products into the spotlight in-store, as well as focus price offers on core shopping basket goods that will genuinely address the cost of living pressures on families.
“We’re pleased to see that the technical guidance provides a comprehensive and updated list of product categories, clear definitions and diagrams for the location-based restrictions, as well as clarification on the sizes of stores and businesses that are in scope of the new regulations, as well as what is exempt and out of scope. We hope with this new guidance the whole food and drink industry can move into a constructive phase of implementation ready for 1 October 2022.”