Surprise, surprise, the UK government has confirmed delays on the restrictions on HFSS promotions – again (see here).

On Saturday, under the heading "PM back's public's right to choose", it announced that multibuy deals on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar – including buy one get one free deals (or “BOGOFs”) – will be delayed for another two years, until October 2025.

The restrictions under the Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 had already been delayed, although the location-based restrictions whereby HFSS foods cannot be displayed at the end of aisles, near entrances, or near checkouts and their online equivalents on websites, came into force last October.

The Times reported that Michael Gove and Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, are said to be attempting to use planning laws to fight obesity in the name of levelling up. Measures under consideration include restricting the opening of takeaways near schools.

Banning promotional deals for so-called junk food has been a key point of successive government obesity policies. However, it is a can that has been repeatedly kicked down the road due to conservative MPs having differing views about intervening in public health. The fact we have had several PMs in a short space of time hasn’t helped. The battle on HFSS was originally championed by Boris Johnson, who suffered a Covid health scare that he blamed on obesity. His replacement, Liz Truss, then declared at the Tory party conference that she had no interest in how many two-for-one offers people purchased at the supermarket. Now, it seems, Rishi Sunak appears to be in agreement with Truss (so that’s one thing they can agree on).

The delay brings the policy into line with the timing for the planned restrictions on advertising HFSS foods. Whilst this will be further annoyance to businesses who have spent money planning for the new restrictions only to see the goal posts move again, it is likely to be music to the ears of stretched local authorities in England, who have been given just £35,000 a year to enforce the HFSS rules. In addition, both the Welsh and Scottish governments have consulted on restrictions on HFSS promotions, so they may have to comply with different rules in Wales and Scotland compared with the rest of the UK.

More news as it happens (and it will)…