Retailers could be forced to contend with a raft of new regulations after a leaked copy of the Government’s original hard-line obesity strategy prompted renewed calls for action.
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme revealed that the Childhood Obesity Strategy had been considerably watered down before its publication.
The original strategy included proposals to limit retail promotions on unhealthy food, restrictions around advertising and a ban on unhealthy products being placed near supermarket checkouts.
Shadow minister for public health, Sharon Hodgson, said the strategy had been the perfect opportunity to take radical action. “It’s time ministers committed to doing more,” she said.
Simon Capewell, vice president for policy at the Faculty of Public Health, said Public Health England was “very serious” about introducing initiatives to tackle obesity.
“They are going to make it happen,” he said. “Within 18 months, we’ll know if the food and drinks industry is on track to reduce sugar in its products by 20% by 2020. It could be a huge klaxon call for further legislation to be applied.”
This could come in the form of tobacco-style regulation, Capewell suggested.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see plain packaging or graphic health warnings on food and drink in the future,” he said. “A lot of our trends follow on from the US, and California already has warning labels on soft drinks.”
James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said the proposals in the original strategy are a cause for concern.
“Any proposals to regulate promotions or the siting of products would be particularly difficult for small stores to implement,” he said.
“We will continue to talk with officials about the practical implications of policy for local shops.”
For retailer’s views on the Government’s increasingly prominent role in food and drink sales, click here.