The Welsh Government have committed to stem the flood of unhealthy food and drinks with policies designed to prioritise children's health in a move that shows up the UK Government's recent backward steps
Following broad public support, the Welsh Government has this week announced a range of policies designed to ensure Welsh families have better access to healthier food. They align with proposals made in English legislation to restrict promotions on unhealthy food by price and location.
The Welsh policies include restrictions of unhealthy foods and drinks (those high in saturated fat, salt and/or sugar) on the following types of promotional activity:
- volume-based promotions such as multi-buys e.g. 2 for 1s and buy one get one free
- location-based promotions such as at the end of aisles
- temporary price promotions and meal deals
The policy announcement comes after a public survey conducted by Public Health Wales showed strong support for government intervention.
- 57% of people agree that governments should use financial tools like taxes to reduce sugar in foods with high levels.
- 81% also think that healthy drink options, such as water or milk, should be the default option for children’s meal deal offers.
- 84% per cent of people say they intend to take action within the next 12 months to achieve or maintain a healthy weight - but over a third (34%) say that too many temptations might stop them from taking the action.
In Wales, around 60 per cent of adults (16+) are overweight or obese with a quarter of those classified as obese. Around a third of children are now overweight or obese by the time they are five years old.
The new law will be introduced in 2024 and rolled out across Wales in 2025. This will align with the new timings for the English legislation of the same policies. In stark contrast, earlier this month, Rishi Sunak's government decided to delay the legislation that would have seen the restrictions to unhealthy multibuys rolled out across England in October 2025. This is the second time that this policy has been delayed since the government made the commitment as part of their obesity strategy in 2020.
Fran Bernhardt, Children's Food Campaign Coordinator, Sustain said:
This is a brilliant win for Welsh children's health. Restricting promotions on unhealthy food is a vital step to give children a healthier start in life. Evidence shows that these promotions lead us to spend more on unhealthy foods and drinks. During the cost of living crisis, it's especially important that we support families, particularly those in the most deprived areas, to get healthy meals back on the table, and encourage businesses to shift promotions to healthier products.
Katharine Jenner, Director of the Obesity Health Alliance said:
The Welsh Government understands better than our Prime Minister, that 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. We congratulate them on taking steps to make the healthy choice, the easier and cheaper choice, for Wales’s citizens.
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.
Gemma Roberts, Co-Chair of Obesity Alliance Cymru says:
Obesity Alliance Cymru is hugely supportive of Welsh Government’s Healthy Weight Healthy Wales strategy. There is an obesity crisis in Wales, and we are pleased to see the Welsh Government proposing legislation which will support the people of Wales to make healthy choices.
Price promotions are marketing techniques used to drive sales and increase consumption. They are not free gifts and they do not save us money. We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and consumers are being bombarded with price promotions which increase spending on the unhealthiest products. Wales needs to shift the balance and support families to make buying fruit and veg easier.
Dr Ilona Johnson, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:
Public Health Wales welcomes this new legislation to support people to make the healthier choices we know they want to make. With over 60 per cent of adults and over a quarter of children under five now overweight or obese, this is a serious issue in Wales. This is an incredibly complex issue and there is no single solution. 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.
Sustain, alongside leading health organisations, food campaigners and medical bodies has called on major food and drink retailers to implement the regulations despite the UK Goverment's decision to delay to 2025. So far, only Tesco and Sainsburys have committed to maintain the planned phase-out of unhealthy foods and drinks promotions this year.
Published 30 Jun 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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