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Mixed responses to proposed junk food advertising controls

16 September 2019

The Scottish Government's planned legislation to restrict the promotion and marketing of junk foods will go ahead despite mixed responses to the preceding public consultation, according to the newly published analysis fo the exercise.

There were 726 responses from individuals and organisations on the proposals being considered which included the restriction of multi-buys and junk food displays at checkouts. The analysis also examines views on the overall aim of reducing public health harms associated with the excessive consumption of food and drink which is high in fat, sugar or salt.

The Programme for Government announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon includes a bill on Restricting Foods Promotions, targeting foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt where they are sold to the public. It will be aimed at junk food promotions which encourage over-consumption and impulse buying, and will support the Government's ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

In general, the 726 responses analysed (87% of which were from individuals and 13% from organisations) supported the aim to reduce the public health harms associated with the excessive consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt, but views were mixed as to whether the restrictions proposed were the most appropriate way to achieve this.

While individuals were more supportive of the proposals, and some felt they should go further, taking in more types of foods and not permitting exemptions, over a third disagreed with the introduction of mandatory measures. Many objected to the Government affecting democratic freedom of choice by acting in this way.

Support from the industry was low, particularly where proposals were restrictive and did not allow exemptions. Key concerns included the potential negative impact, especially on smaller and specialist businesses, and conflict with existing approaches and requirements (such as reformulation). There was also a view that other approaches including public information and persuasion towards healthier choices might be more effective than the proposed restrictions.

Responding to the analysis, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We want to reduce the harms caused by poor diet and weight and make it easier for people to make healthier choices.” He pledged to introduce a bill “as soon as is practicable”, and the analysis would “help to inform” its development.

Click here to view the analysis.


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