THE WELSH Government is pushing ahead with plans to ban unhealthy meal deals.
New legislation is to be introduced across Wales to ‘restrict the placement and price promotion’ of products high in fat, sugar and salt from next year.
The new law will be rolled out across Wales by 2025, which the Welsh Government says builds on its ‘commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity by restricting the ways foods high in fat, sugar or salt can be promoted.’
This will include volume-based promotions, such as multi-buys and restrictions on where products high in fat, sugar or salt can be displayed, such as at the end of aisles.
Also intended to be included, to address the scale of the challenge, will be temporary price promotions and meal deals.
In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “Whilst this would not ban meal deals or other types of promotion it would restrict the inclusion of the unhealthiest products.
“Products that are high in fat, sugar or salt tend to be more heavily promoted and given higher prominence in stores.
“This encourages unplanned impulse buys, with people buying, consuming and spending more on unhealthy foods than they intended.”
Over 60% of adults in Wales are above a healthy weight, and over a quarter of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school. This can have a significant effect on people’s health, with levels of obesity related diseases such as type 2 diabetes at record levels in Wales.
Whilst the legislation will not apply to all high fat, sugar and salt products, it will target food and drinks that contribute most to obesity.
It is hoped these measures will encourage the food and retail industry to consider how healthier options can be made more available and affordable, so that no-one is priced out of a healthy diet.
Evidence is still being considered on other proposals consulted on at the same time, including evidence in out of home settings, such as calorie labelling and on ending the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.
The 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. Whilst similar legislation is also being introduced in England, I am minded to include temporary price reductions and meal deals within our restrictions.
“We will not be banning any product or type of promotion, our aim is to rebalance our food environments towards healthier products, so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.
“This is an important part of the jigsaw as part of our Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy as part of a multi-component approach. Our next generation deserve a different ‘normal’ where healthier foods are more available, affordable and appealing, and high fat, sugar and salt foods are not a core part of our diet. Our current and future generations deserve better.”
Reacting to the announcement, Montgomeryshire MS Russell George said he hoped the new law doesn’t put further pressure on those struggling with the cost-of-living.
He said: “Obesity is an issue in Wales and across the UK.
“As is so often the case when new legislation is introduced, the devil will be in the detail.
“For me, the job of government is more about persuading people to change lifestyles, and not to tell people what to do or ban things”
“My concern about the proposed legislation is for the potential of the average cost of a weekly food shop to increase further, which is the last thing we need given the cost-of-living pressures that we are all facing, precipitated by Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.”
“I’m happy to support legislation that helps people make healthy choices, but it’s the role of the Welsh Government should be to educate, advise and encourage – not restricting the promotion of low-cost options and certainly not entertaining the ridiculous idea of banning meal deals.”
“I will be scrutinising the legislation carefully to make sure that the Government makes the appropriate balances”
A consultation on enforcement measures will be taken forward later this year.