Meal deals: Unhealthy options will be restricted in Waleson June 27, 2023 at 5:09 am

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There will be limits on the sale of combinations of food with high levels of fat, sugar or salt.

Supermarket

Meal deals with a high fat, sugar or salt content will be restricted in Wales under plans to tackle obesity and diabetes.

Temporary price drops and multi-buy offers on the unhealthiest foods will also be banned in the proposals put forward by the Welsh government.

But retailers have raised concerns about the timing of the announcement as food prices remain high.

The legislation will be rolled out across Wales in 2025.

A number of retailers offer lunch deals which combine a sandwich, drink and a snack for a set price.

Restrictions will be placed on certain combinations that have a high fat, sugar or salt content above the recommended daily amount.

Bethan Walker

The new law will also prevent retailers from temporarily lowering prices and offering promotions such as two-for-one on the unhealthiest foods.

The new rules will also try to curb junk food impulse buys by asking retailers not to promote certain items at the end of aisles or next to checkouts.

Meal deals graphic

The legislation will apply to all businesses which employ more than 50 people.

Similar changes in England have been delayed by the UK government, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying it would be unfair to restrict options when food prices remain high.

Shoppers at a supermarket in the Vale of Glamorgan had mixed views on the proposed legislation.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said June Milne. “I think the government should put restrictions on it. It’s about time we put health before profits.”

Mohamed Gomaa

Mohamed Gomaa believed putting health warnings on food packaging would be more effective, like the health warnings on cigarette packets.

Bethan Walker said: “I understand what is going on, but personally, my view is that if I want to buy something with more sugar or salt in it then it’s my choice.”

Filco supermarkets director Matthew Hunt described the timing as “ludicrous”.

“It is notable Rishi Sunak has recently been talking about relaxing this legislation, that it in itself is inflationary and not the right time to be taking this approach especially when food inflation in particular is as high as it is.

“What should be avoided at all costs is the creation of confusion caused by different governments not being aligned with what is included and excluded.

June Milne

The Welsh government said there was strong public support for action to help people make healthier food choices.

According to Public Health Wales data, 60% of people in Wales are overweight and one in four children are obese by the age of five.

Meal deals graphic

The number of people with type 2 diabetes in Wales is also at a record level.

Deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing Lynne Neagle said: “This legislation will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales.

“Our aim is to rebalance our food environments towards healthier products, so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.”

The Welsh government said it would not be banning any products, but it will continue to work with retailers to find a nutritional balance in all offers available to customers.

Filco supermarkets director Matthew Hunt

Dr Ilona Johnson, consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said: “”We know that from the evidence that policies targeting the food environment are effective and a strong legislative framework is an important step in helping us to shift the balance towards healthier choices and healthier people.”

The Welsh Retail Association said: “We are particularly concerned over possible plans to restrict price promotions and to restrict products in meal deals.

“Promotions within categories allow retailers and brands to compete to attract customers, improving competition and keeping prices down.”

Welsh Conservative spokesman for mental health, James Evans said: “Obesity is a pressing issue across the western world that is a costly drain on the limited resources of our precious Welsh NHS and it is a shame that is has taken the Welsh government this long to address the problem.

“However, during the cost of living pressures we are all facing, we need cast-iron assurances from the Welsh Labour government that they do not intend to ban meal deals and that any new regulations will not increase the average weekly cost for shoppers.”

Plaid Cymru said it “supports measures that focus on making it easier to choose healthy lifestyle options”.

“It’s so important to find the balance between taking steps that could prevent poor future health rather than measures that involve the government restricting what we can do when too many households are already facing unreasonable squeeze on their budgets.”

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