HFSS High fat salt and sugar foods

Convenience products could face tougher rules on labelling as part of a major government shakeup to tackle obesity, leaked documents have revealed.

The draft government white paper obtained by Health Policy Insight proposes legislative measures to help the NHS and the nation’s health on its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic from next year.

It revealed plans to give ministers more powers to “scrutinise and introduce new strengthened labelling requirements that best meet the needs of the consumer to make more informed, healthier choices”.

Unitas urges stores to take action over HFSS promo ban

The proposals suggest new front-of-pack nutrition labelling and mandatory alcohol labelling on affected products.

“This will ensure consumers can be supported to make more informed, healthier choices about their food and drink purchases,” the paper added.

Other proposals include stricter advertising restrictions on food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).

Explaining the implementation in convenience stores, retail expert Scott Annan told betterRetailing: “Labelling restrictions will not make any difference to consumer purchasing or retailer selling behaviour because the public hasn’t been convinced about healthier lifestyles.

Government’s unhealthy food crackdown to hit 10,000 small stores

“The issue isn’t resistance from retailers. It’s because they don’t know how to do it. There’s no help from wholesalers or the government.”

The government has previously examined ways to use food packaging to help inform customers about their diets.

This includes a traffic-light system indicating the percentage of a consumer’s recommended daily amount of fat, sugar and calories. Although some major suppliers use the system, it is not a legal requirement.

Advising on how stores can be prepared if stricter labelling is put into law, Pete Martin, regulatory affairs director at product advisory group Ashbury, told betterRetailing: “There would be a transition period, but it’s better to get on with it instead of waiting so long that there’s risk of falling foul of the legislation.

High fat, salt and sugar food restrictions paused

“If it’s coming in two years, maybe there should be consideration in changing products a year early.”

The document comes as a consultation on HFSS restrictions scheduled for April next year closed this month.

Under the proposal, symbol stores over 2,000sq ft would be banned from using multibuy promotions, while placement of affected products in stores would be restricted.

The proposal has faced criticism from the ACS, alongside wholesalers Blakemore, Parfetts, Unitas and Dhamecha.

Read more on HFSS