Scottish government plans restrictions on sugary and fatty foods | Society

The Scottish government is preparing for sweeping restrictions on sugary and fatty foods including ice-creams and takeaway meals to cope with surging rates of obesity.

Ministers in Edinburgh outlined plans on Monday for strict restrictions on the sale, advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods that in some cases go further than proposals by health ministers in England.

Mirroring warnings in other parts of the UK, the Scottish government said tough intervention was needed, with 29% of Scots regarded as obese and 500,000 at risk of developing diabetes.

The plans, to be set out in detail this autumn, include:

Asking fast-food outlets, which sold nearly 950m meals in Scotland in 2015, to cut calories and portion sizes

Restricting sales of multi-buy offers for foods high in fat, sugar or salt

Consulting on restricting sales of energy drinks to under-16s

Outlawing free samples and the use of coupons for risky foods

Expanding the range of foods being targeted to include ice-cream and dairy-based desserts

Restricting displays of high-risk foods at checkouts and shopfront displays

The Scottish government also backed demands from health campaigners for the UK government to outlaw television advertising of high-risk products before the 9pm watershed, to reduce children’s exposure.

It also urged UK ministers to include sugary milk drinks in the statutory sugar limits if the industry did not voluntarily cut levels by 2020, and to use the tax system to make healthier foods cheaper.

Its delivery plan said: “Relying solely on individual action is not always sufficient. We are all susceptible to temptation, but children are especially impressionable. We need to make it easier for us all to make positive dietary choices.”

The proposals were welcomed by health charities and Food Standards Scotland, the government safety agency. Retailers said they agreed a strategic approach was needed and would “engage constructively” with the new proposals.

The Scottish Retail Consortium said ministers needed real evidence that blocking price promotions would reduce obesity without penalising shoppers, and that any labelling changes needed to be applied consistently across the UK.

Pete Cheema, the chief executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, said: “Given the condition of the high street and the number of shop closures, if the Scottish government were to consider introducing additional measures to that of the rest of the UK, this would place extra costs on to Scottish retailers and in particular convenience retailers who operate in a hypercompetitive retail grocery market.”

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