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Scottish Government launches consultation into its own HFSS legislation

Young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
scottish parliament

Less than two months after the delay of HFSS legislation in England, Scotland has launched a consultation into new rules of its own.

The consultation from the Scottish Government, which is open to the public, is looking for opinions on what products should be included in potential HFSS restrictions, and the form such restrictions will take.

Four options are set forward in the consultation regarding the type of foods which could fall under future legislation.

Option one includes the HFSS foods like confectionary, crisps, biscuits and soft drinks. Option two features all of the foods in option one, plus ice cream and other dairy desserts.

Option three covers the aforementioned categories, but also adds into the mix breakfast cereals, pizza, chips and ready meals – these are foods which the Scottish Government identifies as of particular concern to childhood obesity.

Option four includes the foods in all three previous categories, plus items like pies and quiches, cooking sauces, processed meat and certain table sauces and dressings.

Beyond what food will be included, the Scottish Government is also seeking opinions on the scope of both location and promotion restrictions.

The proposal suggests the banning of HFSS foods in:

  • Check out areas, including self-service
  • Aisle ends
  • Store entrances and covered outside areas
  • Island and bin displays

Meanwhile, the consultation tables the banning of promotional pricing deals like:

  • ‘X for Y’ promotions, like buy one get one free and 3 for 2 offers
  • ‘X for £Y’ promotions like 3 for £2
  • Meal deals
  • Unlimited refills

There are some differences between what is currently being considered in Scotland, and what is due to eventually come into effect in England.

The English legislation does not include meal deals, though these are being looked at in Scotland. Limiting these would be in keeping with nutrition research, which shows 70% of UK meal deal snacks are too high in fat, salt, and sugar.

Additionally, the Scottish Government has yet to decide on exemptions to its rules, and is instead asking for opinions here too. England’s exemption criteria is applicable to businesses with fewer than 50 employees and stores under 2000-square-feet.

This latest consultation follows on from one conducted by the Scottish Government in 2018, which was then shelved because of the pandemic. “We paused our plans because of the pandemic, recognising the need to understand, as far as possible, the impact of these unprecedented circumstances on business and consumer behaviour,” said MSP Maree Todd, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport.

It also comes just weeks after the adoption of the country’s Good Food Nation Bill – which enshrines into law a commitment to improve Scotland’s food system at both national and local levels.

On the 2022 consultation, Todd added: “Promotion of less healthy food and drink can significantly influence our dietary choices. Unfortunately the food environment remains skewed towards them. This encourages us to purchase more than we need and to over-consume.”

News of the consultation has sparked concern among retailers, however. Most notably, groups are worried about the prospect of having different rules for each of the constituent countries within the UK.

Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive James Lowman said: “We remain very concerned about the prospect of slightly different and even more confusing rules on restricting HFSS products and promotional activity in Scotland and Wales compared to England, and will be responding to the consultations in due course to outline the problems that differing HFSS rules will have on our members.”

Those wishing to read and respond to the consultation can do so via the Scottish Government website.

With more HFSS legislation potentially on the horizon, learning how to comply without disappointing on taste is paramount. Watch this Masterclass for invaluable information:

How to innovate within HFSS restrictions