No more meal deals? The plans being considered in Wales to tackle obesity explained

Restrictions on meal deal promotions, who can buy energy drinks and even limiting where some products can be placed in shops are all ideas being considered. Credit: PA Images

By ITV Wales Journalist, Sarah Mahon

As part of moves to tackle obesity, the Welsh Government is considering a host of ideas to try and make it easier for people to live healthier lifestyles.

This includes restrictions on meal deal promotions, the sale of energy drinks to those under 16 and even limiting where some products can be placed in shops.

A consultation into the plans took place in 2022, with more details on the next steps and a technical consultation expected in April 2023.

So what are some of the options being looked at?

  • Meal deals and promotions

Restrictions on what products can be sold as part of promotions, like meal deals and multi-buy offers, could be introduced.

Items that are high in salt, sugar or fat - such as chocolate and crisps - could be excluded from deals.

Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said the plans could see food prices in Wales increase while also reducing choice for consumers.

“Promotions within categories allow retailers and brands to compete to attract customers, improving competition and keeping prices down," she said.

Restrictions on what products are placed in prominent shop positions, like at the entrance or alongside tills, is also being considered. Credit: PA

"With inflation running at a 18-year-high it would be regressive and irresponsible to put up costs in this manner with no evidence at this time that it would significantly improve public health.

"We hope Welsh ministers will keep consumers in mind as this process continues over the coming months.”

The Welsh Government said that although promotions appear to save customers money, data shows that they actually increase consumer spending. It cites research in Scotland that found customers spent rose by around 20% as a result of being enticed by deals.

  • Takeaways near schools

The establishment of new takeaways close to schools and colleges is something the Welsh Government could restrict.

It said Wales has a high density of hot food takeaways when compared to the UK average and research suggests a link between obesity and the saturation levels of takeaways.

Some Welsh local authorities already restrict the location of hot food takeaways. For example in Wrexham, there is a policy in place that routinely excludes takeaways from being opened within 400 metres of a school.

Some local authorities in Wales use existing planing rules to try and stop takeaway businesses from opening close to schools. Credit: PA
  • Where products are placed in shops

New rules relating to the location of fatty or sugary foods could be introduced, meaning they are not placed at the front of shops or by the tills.

Similar rules are also being considered for online shopping, meaning things like pop-up promotions before you complete virtual checkout could be banned.

The 2018 Obesity Alliance study found 43% of all food and drink products located in prominent areas - such as displays at store entrances, checkouts or free-standing display units - were for sugary foods and drinks.

The Welsh Government says this promotes unhealthy impulse buys.

  • Calorie labelling

All food businesses, no matter their size, could have to label their food so the customer knows the number of calories in their choice.

The Welsh Government wants consumers to make more informed decisions, claiming adults underestimate the number of calories in portions. It adds that takeaway meals typically contain twice as many calories as their equivalent bought in a shop.

The sale of energy drinks could be restricted to only those over the age of 16.
  • Energy drinks

A separate Welsh Government consultation is also looking at banning the sale of energy drinks to young people under the age of 16.

Some energy drinks have 21 teaspoons of sugar and the same caffeine as three cups of coffee, with research showing that children who drink at least one energy drink per week are more likely to report symptoms such as headaches, sleep problems and stomach problems as well as low mood and irritability.

The UK Government announced similar plans to restrict the sale of energy drinks to under-16s in England in 2019, although that ban is yet to come into force.

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