The government is to delay its planned ban on two-for-one junk food deals – a key anti-obesity measure – for another two years amid the cost of living crisis.
Rishi Sunak will shelve the expected measure targeting multi-buy promotions on products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) to avoid restricting consumer options while prices remain high.
The policy, part of the anti-obesity strategy, had already been pushed back to October 2023, which sparked speculation that it could be dropped completely.
It has now been delayed until October 2025 while the government continues to review the impact it would have on shoppers and businesses, Downing Street said.
The move is likely to disappoint health campaigners who have previously expressed concern about government inaction.
But it was welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores, which said it would help consumers who are “facing enough challenges with inflation without legislation like this further increasing shopping bills”.
The prime minister said: “I firmly believe in people’s right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop.
“It is right that we consider carefully the impact on consumers and businesses, while ensuring we’re striking the balance with our important mission to reduce obesity and help people live healthier lives.”
The health secretary, Steve Barclay, insisted the government remains committed to cutting waiting lists by tackling obesity, which costs the NHS about £6.5bn a year and is the second biggest cause of cancer.
He pointed to the creation of pilots for the latest anti-obesity drugs as one such measure.
After the previous delay to the ban, in May last year, Barbara Crowther, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said the organisation was disappointed, while celebrity chef Jamie Oliver protested outside Downing Street.
Published: 2023-06-17 00:05:19