Restricting promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt: business and regulatory impact assessment - partial

Partial business and regulatory impact assessment of proposals to restrict promotions of food and drink high in fat sugar or salt (HFSS).

8. Consumer Assessment

At present the food environment heavily incentivises and promotes low cost foods which contributes disproportionately to energy, fat, saturated fat, free sugar and salt intakes[61]. The proposals are expected to support consumers to make healthier choices by addressing consumer exposure to promotion of unhealthy food. This is one way to help support diet, healthy weight and overall health improvement as part of wide ranging actions. Measures to transform the food environment, such as restricting the promotion of less healthy foods and reducing the energy density of food, are more likely to be effective in reducing health inequalities than measures aimed at encouraging individual to change their behaviour.

Further information about the intended impact on consumers and the evidence to support this is set out in the 2024 consultation and the 2022 consultation[62] [63]. Central to this is the importance of improving the nation’s diet given the long established association between poor diet, excess weight and health outcomes[64]. Section 2.3 details the rationale for Government intervention which outlines the public health harms associated with the excess consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt. Positive steps to reduce the impact of the promotion of HFSS food and drinks is expected to lessen consumer purchasing and associated consumption of these products which in turn will support consumers to make healthier choices in line with the objective to improve the nation’s diet and reduce health harms linked to the excess consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt.

As part of the series of roundtable discussions detailed at Section 3.2 the Minister for Public Health & Women’s Health met with public health stakeholders in November 2023. Public Health stakeholders, in recognition of Scotland’s high levels of overweight and obesity, have been consistent in their call for a comprehensive package of measures to be within the scope of the policy to maximise the positive health impacts of proposals on consumers. Public health stakeholder views included:

  • unanimous support for including meal deals in the policy to maximise its effectiveness.
  • support for alignment with proposed Welsh Government strategies and inclusion of non-pre-packed HFSS food alongside pre-packed items, to prevent loopholes and maximise impact.
  • support for children’s meal deals being targeted alongside options aimed at adults.
  • the importance of effective communication of the policy with a focus on improving access to healthier foods and promotion of the value of healthier options.
  • strong support for the inclusion of TPRs within the policy, highlighting their prevalence and the risk of creating a loophole that could undermine the public health impact of the policy if not targeted
  • the need for flexibility in the regulations in order to respond to changing industry behaviour.
  • support for a comprehensive package of measures with as few exemptions as possible in order to maximise the impact of the policy.
  • concern that exempting smaller stores, especially in rural areas and areas of multiple deprivation, could exacerbate health inequalities.
  • recognition that there may be implementation challenges in small stores, which may require additional support to enable these stores to offer healthier options.
  • the importance of learning from the regulations in England in respect of exemptions.

In addition and as part of work to further develop the policy, Scottish Government officials in December 2022 worked with Poverty Alliance Scotland to run workshops with individuals from urban and rural communities to consider the impact of proposals on people living on low incomes. Overall, workshop participants welcomed the intent behind the policy proposals but had mixed views on efficacy and considerable concerns about the implementation of proposals and unintended consequences. Key messages from workshop participants included:

  • A need to focus on making healthy food cheaper to combat poor health
  • Restrict location not price
  • Agreement with restricting promotions
  • A need to respect individual choice
  • A need to consider wider implications of the proposed legislation, particularly in the cost crisis

Officials continue to build on findings from these workshops and in line with an extensive programme of engagement with a range of stakeholders will ensure the impact on different types of consumers is considered and understood as part of the suite of impact assessments in line with the Fairer Scotland Duty and equality consideration.



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