Improving Scotland’s diet

Consultation launched on restricting junk food promotions.

Restricting ‘super-sizing’ and free refills of sugary soft drinks, multi-buys and placing junk food at checkouts are among actions being considered to improve Scotland’s health.

The Scottish Government is consulting with the public, and food and retail industries on restricting the in-store marketing and promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt, with little or no nutritional benefit. The consultation is part of the Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, and will inform assessments of impact and possible legislation.

The restrictions would cover confectionery, sweet biscuits, crisps, savoury snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings, and soft drinks with added sugar.  Views are being sought on whether to also cover ice-cream and dairy desserts.

The proposed restrictions would apply to targeted foods and would include, among other things, multi-buys, display at checkouts, purchase rewards such as vouchers and loyalty card points, unlimited refills and upselling of increased sizes or extra products and other marketing activities where they are being sold.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Eating a poor diet and being overweight or obese causes serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and it is clear that we must take decisive action. 

“Restricting the in-store promotion and marketing of food high in fat, sugar or salt is crucial to tackling our nation’s damaging relationship with junk food.

“This is a ground-breaking policy and follows Scotland’s proud history of taking pioneering and ambitious public health actions, such as the smoking ban and minimum unit pricing for alcohol.  We are consulting to deliver a policy that is proportionate and delivers positive outcomes.”

Cancer Research UK prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld said: “It’s positive the Scottish Government has signalled its intention to take action on obesity and is launching a consultation on restricting junk food promotions.

“Junk food multibuy offers encourage us to bulk buy and eat large quantities of unhealthy food, the consequences of which have become all too obvious in the nation’s growing waistlines. Obesity is also the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, responsible for 2,200 cases in Scotland every year.

“The introduction of laws to curb bargain buys for food and drink high in fat and sugar would be an effective way of helping people make healthier choices.”

Ross Finnie, Chair of Food Standards Scotland said:

“Food Standards Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s consultation, which aims to reduce public health harms from foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt such as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, sugary drinks and savoury snacks.

“Promotions of these foods encourage us to buy and eat more calories, fat and sugar than we want or need. It’s time for action to be taken to address Scotland’s unhealthy snacking culture by shifting the weight of promotions towards healthier options.”


The consultation runs from 2 October 2018 to 9 January 2019.

A Healthier Future: Scotland’s Diet and Health Weight Delivery Plan published in July 2018.

The primary aim of the policy is to reduce the public health harm associated with the excessive consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt, including the risks of developing type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer and other conditions such as cardiovascular disease.  The Scottish Government is also aiming to help reduce diet-related health inequalities, including in relation to socioeconomic disadvantage.

The proposed restrictions would apply only to targeted food and drink. The proposed categories are typically high in fat, sugar or salt but provide little or no nutritional benefit necessary for a healthy diet. The restrictions would cover confectionery, sweet biscuits, crisps, savoury snacks, cakes, pastries, puddings, and soft drinks with added sugar. Views are being sought on whether to also cover ice-cream and dairy desserts. These optional foods have a significant negative impact on Scotland’s diet providing 20% of calories, 20% of fats and 50% of sugar. Main meals would not be included.

The proposed restrictions are:

  • multi-buys
  • sale of unlimited amounts for a fixed charge
  • promotion or marketing where they are sold to the public.  The following illustrates such restrictions (it is not an exhaustive list):
    • placement at checkouts, end-of-aisle, front of store, island/bin displays, etc.
    • promotion of value (e.g. promotion of price, size or volume)
    • shelf-edge displays and signage
    • in-store advertising
    • upselling (e.g. being asked if you want an additional product at the till or to increase the size of it)
    • coupons (whether physical or electronic) being accepted (10p/20% off etc.)
    • purchase rewards (e.g. toys, vouchers, loyalty card points, reduced price for another product, competition entry)
    • free samples
    • branded chillers and floor display units.

The restrictions would apply to any place where targeted foods are sold to the public, including retail (e.g. supermarkets and convenience stores) and Out of Home outlets (e.g. fast food outlets).   Restrictions to online sale will also be explored.

Measures to restrict in-store promotion and marketing of discretionary foods would complement measures at a UK-level to encourage reformulation to reduce the calorie and sugar content of High, Fat, Sugar, Salt foods, including by reducing portion sizes.


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