PM accused of 'playing politics' with children’s health as ban on unhealthy food deals delayed

ITV News Reporter Charlie Frost explains the plans that have been put on hold

Boris Johnson has been accused of "playing politics" with children's health after a proposed ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals for unhealthy food products was delayed.

The government has announced its intention to pause the plans due to the “unprecedented” squeeze on living standards.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the ban on multi-buy promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) is being put back a year to October 2023.

A ban on TV adverts for HFSS products before a 9pm watershed and on paid-for adverts online is also being delayed by 12 months and will now come into effect in January 2024.

Officials said the deferral of the buy-one-get-one-free (Bogof) ban was to give ministers a chance to assess the impact on household finances amid intense concern over the cost-of-living squeeze.

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Public Health Minister Maggie Throup insisted that they remained determined to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

Health campaigners have reacted with dismay, however, accusing the prime minister of “playing politics” with children’s health.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver called the delay a "wasted opportunity" that "erode[s] the whole obesity strategy".

“Parents and kids don’t want to hear any more excuses from the government. I really hope the Prime Minister @BorisJohnson proves me wrong and shows real leadership to give young people a healthier and fairer future," he tweeted.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the “pragmatism” of the government’s action. Credit: PA

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said the delays completely contradicted the government’s “levelling up” agenda.

“Boris Johnson could have left a legacy of being the first Prime Minister to address obesity in a meaningful way, particularly in restricting advertising and promotion of unhealthy food which were his flagship policies,” he said.

“Instead, he has given in to his own MPs, and an aggressive food industry, who, ironically, were starting to comply with these new policies.”

Barbara Crowther, of the Children’s Food Campaign, said the Government should be moving faster on Bogof deals, not “delaying and dithering”.

Multibuys of unhealthy foods had been set to be banned. Credit: PA

For Labour, shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne said: “Boris Johnson’s desperation to cling onto his job means the ideology of Conservative MPs is being placed above children’s health.

“Instead of cutting childhood obesity, preventing ill-health and easing pressure on the NHS, this chaotic government is performing another U-turn.”

Industry body the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the “pragmatism” of the government’s action.

Kate Halliwell, the FDF’s chief scientific officer, said: “At a time when both families and our manufacturers are struggling with high inflation, it makes sense to delay the restrictions on volume promotions for everyday food and drink products, including breakfast cereals, ready meals and yoghurts, as it risked further stretching already-pressed household budgets.

“We also welcome the delay to the start of advertising restrictions, given the time it will take our industry to prepare for the change in law.”

The DHSC said restrictions on the placement of less healthy products in stores and supermarkets will still come into force in October 2022 as planned.

Last month, laws on calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways came into force.