This week the government announced that the ban on bogof and multibuy deals for unhealthy food are to be delayed to October 2025.
“[…] at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop”, explained Rishi Sunak. The prime minister said he is firm believer in people’s right to choose. Advertising bans on unhealthy food have also been pushed back to October 2025.
The Food and Drink Federation welcomed the government’s “pragmatism” but campaigners said the deals simply lead shoppers to “impulsively buy more unhealthy food”.
Ben Reynolds, deputy CEO of Sustain said: “These restrictions provide a level playing field for businesses to shift promotions to healthier products, helping not hindering consumers in these difficult times.” Reynolds urged the prime minister to “stand firm on his ambitions to halve child obesity by 2030 and not cave-in to a small group of ideological backbenchers and vested interests”.
The government’s obesity strategy is falling apart. The strategy had finally promised to focus on food and the environment in which food is sold, but has now seemingly been replaced by miracle drugs and more exercise.
Earlier this month the government launched a two-year pilot scheme involving drugs like semaglutide – known as Wegovy and Ozempic – to tackle obesity and cut NHS waiting times. Sunak described the treatments as a “game-changer”. NewScientist recently noted the excitement the treatments have created: “It is a cliché but obesity doctors are talking about a paradigm shift in the field of obesity management.”
Over the past three decades, strategies by political parties of all stripes have overwhelmingly focused on individual responsibility, centring on schemes that involve, for example, education, food labelling and information campaigns. But every target has been missed and obesity continues to rise, reported the Institute for Government in April.
The NHS is currently spending £6.5 billion annually on treatments for health conditions related to poor diets, and excess consumption of calories, salt, sugar and saturated fats. The Obesity Health Alliance this week urged the prime minister to rethink his latest retreat from legislation designed to make a healthy diet more accessible, affordable and appealing.
“It’s disappointing to hear that once again the UK Government might retreat from implementing legislation passed to help make a healthy diet more accessible, affordable and appealing for all,” said Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell. “When obesity causes 13 different types of cancer, we need to see bold action.”