News Children's Food Campaign

Health organisations call on retailers to commit to restrictions on multibuy promotions

Leading health charities, food campaigners and medical bodies have written to the UK's major food and drink retailers urging them to implement the regulations on junk food multibuy promotions, despite a government U-turn on the policy.

Child looking at confectionery in a store. Credit: Petr Bonek | Shutterstock

Child looking at confectionery in a store. Credit: Petr Bonek | Shutterstock

The letter urges all retailers to do the right thing for children’s health, and not allow the Government’s hesitation to erode or divert efforts to phase out multi-buy promotions on high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products by October 2023. 

The letter (available here) acknowledges that the retailers will have been working with suppliers and manufacturers to prepare for the introduction of the new regulations.

The UK's largest retailer Tesco has announced that it will maintain its own voluntary commitment to avoid volume-led promotions for less healthy food and drink, and focus on ways to offer their customers value. Sainsbury's has also phased out use of multi-buy promotions of HFSS food and drink. 

The letter urges other retailers to join with them now in removing these deals across the industry.

The Government's own impact assessment provides evidence that multi-buy promotions on HFSS food drive excessive consumption, do not save people money and can act to displace healthier food and drink from shopping baskets. The signatories, which include Sustain, the Obesity Health Alliance, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians, urge the companies to put healthier products in the promotional spotlight and avoid promotions that lead to excess purchase and consumption of HFSS food and drink.  

Barbara Crowther from the Children’s Food Campaign at Sustain said:

“Well done to Tesco for standing by the commitment to avoid unhealthy multibuy offers and focus on more nutritious food and drink instead. The UK’s largest retailer is clear that there are better ways to offer customers great value and healthier shopping baskets. The Prime Minister and Health Secretary need to reconsider their decision to delay the introduction of industry wide regulations. We call on every retailer to join Tesco and Sainsbury’s and publicly commit to supporting children’s health by phasing out unhealthy multi-buy deals by October 2023 as originally planned.”

More than one in three children are at risk of developing food-related ill health. In areas of high deprivation, children are more than twice as likely to be impacted, leading to unacceptable inequalities in health outcomes. The letter's signatories also urge the Government and industry to show leadership and take bigger, bolder preventive steps to protect children’s health, and address unacceptable inequalities in health outcomes.

Katharine Jenner, Director of the Obesity Health Alliance said:

"People are not choosing to be unhealthy. Multi-buy price promotions encourage people to impulsively buy more unhealthy food, rather than make savings from healthier food already on their shopping list - it is a false economy. This puts extra pressure on families with tight food budgets, not less.  Major supermarkets appear to have a better understanding of this than this government, despite it being a key part of their evidence-based childhood obesity strategy.  We urge the government to reconsider the delay to the multi-buy restrictions, and to start making the healthy choice, the easier and cheaper choice, now."


Full signatory list

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain

Katharine Jenner, Director, Obesity Health Alliance

Professor Kevin Fenton, President, Faculty of Public Health

Chris Askew, CEO, Diabetes UK

LIz Stockley, CEO, British Dietetic Association

John Maingay, Director of Policy and Influencing, British Heart Foundation

Nick Grossman, Obesity Action UK

Professor Jim McManus, President, Association of Directors of Public Health

Hugo Harper, Mission Director, A Healthy Life, Nesta

Rebecca Sunter, Children’s Health and Food Programme Director, Impact on Urban Health

James Toop, CEO, Bite Back 2030

Nigel Shattock, Director of Communications & Engagement, World Cancer Research Fund

Professor David Strain, Chair, BMA Board of Science Committee

Dr Nicola Heslehurst, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Association for the Study of Obesity

Jonathan Pauling, CEO, Alexandra Rose Charity

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign Manager, Sustain

Professor Maria Bryant, Fix our Food, University of York

Alison Morton, CEO, Institute of Health Visiting

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive, Oral Health Foundation

Stephanie Slater, Founder/Chief Executive, School Food Matters

J. Paul Wright, Public Health Affairs FFPH FRSPH

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman, Action on Salt and Action on Sugar

Dr Adrian Brown, Chair, British Dietetic Association Obesity Specialist Group

Kristin Bash, Chair, Food SIG, Faculty of Public Health

Dr Vicky Sibson, Director, First Steps Nutrition Trust

Matthew Philpott, Executive Director, Health Equalities Group

Dr Alex Richardson, Founder Director, Food and Behaviour (FAB) Research UK

Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust

Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy, Soil Association

Professor Rachel Batterham, Chair, Obesity Empowerment Network

Dr Sarah Clarke, President, Royal College of Physicians (RCP)

Professor Emma Boyland, Chair of Food Marketing and Child Health, University of Liverpool

Professor Amandine Garde, Director of Law & Non-Communicable Research Unit, University of Liverpool

Tamsin Brewis, Director, Children’s Alliance

Published Thursday 22 June 2023

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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