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Wales Announces Law to Restrict Food Options in Meal Deals

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A new law to ban certain foods from meal deals and controls on high fat, sugar, or salt content to tackle obesity, has been announced by the Welsh government.

Certain foods in meal deals will be restricted in Wales as well as volume-based promotions, such as multi-buys, the Labour-run Welsh government announced on Tuesday.

The ban will also put restrictions on where products high in fat, sugar, or salt can be displayed, such as at the end of aisles.

The law will be introduced in 2024 and will be rolled out across Wales by 2025.

It said that it will build “on the commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity by restricting the ways foods high in fat, sugar, or salt can be promoted.”

The government claims that products that are high in fat, sugar, or salt tend to “be more heavily promoted and given higher prominence in stores.”

“This encourages unplanned impulse buys, with people buying, consuming, and spending more on unhealthy foods than they intended,” it said.

Obesity

According to the NHS in Wales, around 25 percent, or one in four adults aged 16 and over are obese. For children, aged four to five years old, 12 percent are obese, but over a quarter of children are overweight by the time they start school.

“Whilst the legislation will not apply to all high fat, sugar, and salt products, it will target food and drinks that contribute most to obesity,” it said.

The 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 deserves 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.”

‘People Tend to Be Pretty Inflexible’

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs told The Epoch Times that he “doubted the policies would work.

“People tend to be pretty inflexible about what they buy. We’ve seen food prices go up a great deal and it hasn’t made a huge difference to what people are eating.

“They might downgrade to a slightly cheaper brand, they might go to a slighter cheaper shop. People know what they want to eat and I don’t believe that anyone is getting fat off a sandwich at work,” he added.

In May, the UK government delayed rules banning multibuy deals on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar—including buy one get one free, ‘3 for 2,’ and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks for a year.

Writing on Twitter, Shadow Minister For Education Laura Anne Jones said that “we are witnessing an erosion of our freedom to choose how we spend our hard-earned money.”

“Meal deals offer a convenient and cost-effective option for those seeking a quick and affordable meal,” she said, adding that Welsh Labour was “punishing the worst off in society” as a “nanny state.”

‘Unhealthiest Products’

Gemma Roberts, co-chair of Obesity Alliance Cymru, supported the measures, claiming that “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 [vegetables] easier,” she said.

Dr Ilona Johnson, a consultant for Public Health Wales, said that with over 60 percent 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,” she added.



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