Meal deals could be restricted in Wales as Welsh Government looks to tackle obesity

Unhealthier meal deal options could be restricted under the new proposals in a bid to tackle obesity.

Unhealthy meal deals are set to be restricted in Wales as the Welsh Government tries to tackle obesity in the country.

New laws to restrict price promotions on foods with high fat, salt and sugar content is set to be introduced in 2024, with the legislation coming into force across the whole of Wales by 2025.

The Welsh Government says it also wants to tackle multi-buy options on unhealthy food and restrict where products high in fat, sugar and salt can be displayed in shops and supermarkets, like at the end of aisles.

It has said that whilst meal deals and other food promotions will not be banned, the new law will restrict the availability of these to the unhealthiest products.

60% of adults in Wales are said to be above a healthy weight, and over a quarter of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school.

The Welsh Government says it hopes the new measures will encourage the food and retail industry to make healthier options more affordable for everyone.

Promotions on unhealthy foods could be come a thing of the past in Wales if the legislation gets given the green light.

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said:

“This legislation will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales. Whilst similar legislation is also being introduced in England, I am minded to include temporary price reductions and meal deals within our restrictions.

“We will not be banning any product or type of promotion, our aim is to rebalance our food environments towards healthier products, so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.

“This is an important part of the jigsaw as part of our Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy as part of a multi-component approach.

"Our next generation deserve a different ‘normal’ where healthier foods are more available, affordable and appealing, and high fat, sugar and salt foods are not a core part of our diet. Our current and future generations deserve better.”

Some are questioning if the proposal will work and the pressure it might put on people struggling with the cost of living.
  • Does a meal deal help those struggling with the cost of living?

Meanwhile the proposals aren't being supported by everyone. The Welsh Conservatives say the Welsh Government must ensure the changes do not put unnecessary pressure on people trying to cope with the cost of living crisis.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health, James Evans MS said:

“Obesity is a pressing issue across the Western world that is a costly drain on the limited resources of our precious Welsh NHS and it is a shame that it has taken the Welsh Government this long to address the problem.

"However, during the cost of living pressures we are all facing, we need cast iron assurances from the Welsh Labour Government that they do not intend to ban meal deals and that any new regulations will not increase the average weekly cost for shoppers.

Unhealthy meal deals have become a popular option for many, with the Welsh Government wanting to make healthier options more affordable.

“To address obesity, we need a whole Government approach to tackle the issue, with educating children about food, teaching physical education and funding for sports clubs at the heart of a cross-departmental strategy.

“The Welsh Conservatives believe the role of government is to educate, advise and to encourage better eating behaviours. It is very disappointing that due to Labour mismanagement drastic steps now need to be taken to reduce obesity in Wales.”

A spokesperson from Plaid Cymru has said "in a cost of living crisis, when too many families are struggling to put food on the table at all, this shouldn’t be about preventing discounts on food.

"Being able to put some food on the table is better than there being no food on the table at all.

“It’s so important to find the balance between taking steps that could prevent poor future health rather than measures that involve the government restricting what we can do when too many households are already facing unreasonable squeeze on their budgets.”

Sara Jones from the Welsh Retail Consortium appears to agree with the view regarding pressure on those struggling to afford the basics.

“With food inflation running at a near 18-year-high, the WRC remains particularly concerned over possible plans to restrict price promotions and to restrict products in meal deals.

"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. 

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

"Promotions also allow for local suppliers to be achieve consumer attention, helping bolster the performance of the Welsh Food and Drink Industry across UK-wide retailers’ stores.

"These restrictions will not only impact on consumer choice, price and availability but may hinder the success of the Welsh producers for years to come.

However, Gemma Roberts the Co-Chair of Obesity Alliance Cymru has said her organisation is supportive of the proposal.

“Price promotions are marketing techniques used to drive sales and increase consumption. They are not free gifts and they do not save us money.

"We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and consumers are being bombarded with price promotions which increase spending on the unhealthiest products. Wales needs to shift the balance and support families to make buying fruit and veg easier”.

Dr Ilona Johnson, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:

“With over 60 per cent of adults and over a quarter of children under five now overweight or obese, this is a serious issue in Wales.

"This is an incredibly complex issue and there is no single solution. We know that from the evidence that policies targeting the food environment are effective and a strong legislative framework is an important step in helping us to shift the balance towards healthier choices and healthier people. 

The Welsh Government says a consultation on enforcement measures will be taken forward later this year.  

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