The move to delay a ban on supermarket deals, including ‘buy one, get one free’ deals on junk food, could ‘blow a hole’ in the government’s obesity strategy, warned a former Minister of Health.
Amid growing concern over the cost of food, it emerged on Friday that the government would delay a ban on multiple buy offers for foods deemed unhealthy or fattening. It will also pause plans to ban pre-watershed TV advertising for foods high in fat, salt or sugar.
It is understood that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has decided to delay the implementation of the policies for at least a year – and potentially to scrap them altogether – after chairing a ministerial meeting to find ways to mitigate the cost of living crisis on Wednesday.
Lord Bethell, a former health minister, piloted moves to ban multiple purchasing agreements before he was sacked in last year’s reshuffle. He said failing to prevent people from eating junk food will increase the number of people needing NHS treatment.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I fear this will blow up the obesity strategy. This has a massive tracking effect on all of our health goals.
“More and more people are getting cancer because of obesity-related effects. Thus, the 10-year plan against cancer, the extra five years of longevity and many other of our health goals suffer.
“All these diseases caused by [being] overweight from junk food is borne by the NHS and by the taxpayer.
“We need to consider all of the costs of the obesity crisis in this country, and this is a way to mitigate those costs without banning things or taking more extreme measures.”
The government published its obesity strategy in July 2020, noting that one in three children leaving primary school were overweight or obese. There was also a link between higher death rates in obese people and Covid-19.
Bethell said he did not believe Parliament would let the blocking of multiple purchase agreements pass. “The practical parliamentary aspects are that it will be extremely difficult to revert to these measures before the next election,” he said.
“I would like to take the government at its word, but naturally I fear that this will set back the obesity strategy from the bottom up.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said the ban on multi-buy promotions would now come into effect in October 2023, while the ban on TV ads before 9 p.m. would be delayed until January 2024.
The move was criticized by health campaigners.
Jamie Oliver, a longtime campaigner for healthy eating, said Johnson needed to show ‘real leadership’ and stop making excuses not to move forward with the national anti-coronavirus strategy. obesity.
“It’s a wasted opportunity and it’s starting to erode the whole obesity strategy,” he said. “Policies such as restricting junk food advertising to children are crucial to leveling and [are] popular with the public.
“Parents and children no longer want to hear excuses from the government. I really hope that the Prime Minister will prove me wrong and show real leadership to provide young people with a healthier and fairer future.
Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said the government remained committed to tackling the problem of childhood obesity.
“Suspending restrictions on offers such as buy-one-get-one-free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation,” she said. .