Junk food bill delay divides opinion

News that Scotland will not be moving forward with a proposed ban on junk food promotions has received a mixed response from business groups and campaigners.

The Scottish Food and Drink Federation said the decision not to introduce the Restricting Food Promotions Bill during this parliament was welcome. It said the government had listened to concerns that the proposals would have had a devastating economic impact on smaller Scottish food businesses who sell the majority of their products in Scotland.

Campaigners had hoped the bill would enable the restriction of price promotions of junk food, including multibuy offers such as Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) and promotions in prominent areas like the end of supermarket aisles and checkouts.

The Scottish Government cited the “significant impact” of Covid-19 as a reason for pausing the introduction of the bill. It said it would now take stock and consider whether a more wide-ranging bill is required to tackle Scotland’s diet and weight problem after the pandemic.

Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland, said the news was disappointing. “While I understand that the food environment in Scotland has changed radically during the pandemic it has also become increasingly clear that people with obesity have had much worse outcomes from Covid-19, with an increased risk of being admitted to intensive care and of dying. If we want to secure the health, resilience and longevity of the people of Scotland then tackling overweight and obesity must be a priority,” Tulloch said.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, said it would be vital for the Scottish Government “to set out a firm commitment and clear timeline for when things will get back on track”.

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