The government has published the draft Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021. 

After several consultations, the government is pressing ahead with restricting the promotion of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) products by large and medium businesses that sell food or drink in England (i.e. those with 50 or more employees). There will be location and volume price restrictions:

  • Location restrictions will apply to store entrances, aisle ends and checkouts and their online equivalents (that is, entry pages, landing pages for other food categories, and checkout pages).
  • Volume price restrictions will prohibit medium and large businesses that sell food or drink in England from offering promotions such as "buy-one-get-one-free" or "three for two" offers on HFSS products.

The foods and soft drinks affected are defined by the Regulations and include items such as cakes, chocolate, pizza and morning goods.

The Regulations are to be enforced by food authorities in their local areas. If organisations do not comply with the Regulations, enforcement officers will be required to issue an improvement notice before any penalty can be levied, providing businesses an opportunity to take steps to comply with the requirements.

Non-compliance with an improvement notice is an offence; in such cases enforcement officers may impose a fixed monetary penalty of £2,500 using powers under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008. This is intended to provide food authorities with a proportionate alternative means of enforcement to criminal prosecution under the Food Safety Act 1990.

Once parliament has approved the regulations, guidance to support businesses and local authorities with implementing the requirements will be published. It is intended that the restrictions will take effect from 1 October 2022.

Although the Regulations only apply to England, the government says that the devolved administrations are planning similar restrictions. 

Food for thought

The new Regulations follow the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill which will restrict the advertising of HFSS products on television and online from January 2023.