UK high-sugar promotion ban delay angers health campaigners

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s decision to further delay rules banning multi-buy deals on food and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) has dismayed health campaigners who say it will not help families trying to save money.

The UK government said on Saturday that rules banning multi-buy deals on HFSS foods and drinks, including buy one get one free (BOGOF) deals, will be delayed until October 2025.

The policy had already been delayed until October this year. The government will continue to review the impact of the restrictions on consumers and businesses.

“I firmly believe in people’s right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

Britons, worn down by a cost of living crisis into its second year, face food inflation of over 19%, official data shows.

John Maingay, director of policy at the British Heart Foundation, said multi-buy deals led people to spend more money and eat more junk food.

“The government has said itself in recent weeks how important it is to drive down our high obesity rates – but it won’t achieve this unless it follows its own evidence and implements its own policies,” he said.

Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, noted that more than one in three children leave primary school with obesity and that the problem required government action, not just personal responsibility.

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said the government’s latest delay would widen health inequalities.

Most major supermarkets, including market leader Tesco and No. 2 Sainsbury’s, have moved away from multi-buy deals in recent years, aiming instead to keep prices on essential products low by matching those available at discount groups Aldi or Lidl, and via promotions on loyalty cards.

The government said it remained committed to cutting hospital waiting lists by tackling obesity which costs the national health service (NHS) around 6.5 billion pounds ($8.3 billion) a year.

($1 = 0.7803 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton and Barbara Lewis)