Boris Johnson has said the Government was having to be “flexible” when it came to a delay in introducing a ban on buy-one-get-one-free promotions on unhealthy foods as Jamie Oliver led protests outside Downing Street.
The Government had been set to axe multi-buy promotions on food which are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS products) by the end of October.
However, it has now said this will be pushed back to October 2023 while other anti-obesity measures, such as a ban on TV adverts for HFSS food and drink before a 9pm watershed, will also be delayed.
Supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury’s have, however, committed to the original Government deadlines and said they will offer more discounts on healthier products.
The Prime Minister, speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Powys in Wales, said: “We understand the vital importance of tackling obesity, it costs the NHS huge sums of money.
“Now, there are lots of things you’ve got to focus on, including diet, eating less, eating less is the most important thing, but there are some things at the moment where we think they make very little difference to obesity.
“They can affect people’s weekly outgoings, people’s budgets, and at this particular time, if people can save on their food bills with some offers, then I think we’ve just got to be flexible while continuing to tackle obesity.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver presented an Eton Mess outside Downing Street as the celebrity chef protested the U-turn in the Government’s anti-obesity policy.
Mr Oliver hailed the actions of supermarkets to follow the originally planned policy.
“They’ve set the tone and I’m sure others will follow,” he told PA.
“We want to put child health first, the strategy was looking world-class and now it doesn’t.
“It’s our job to put it all back together again and make sure that we can build a better future for our kids.”
Tesco said it will remove multi-buy promotions food which are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS products) by the end of October.
Tesco chief customers officer Alessandra Bellini said: “At Tesco, we passionately believe that healthier food should be more accessible to everyone, no matter your budget – and today’s announcement is a key step towards that.
“With more than eight in 10 people reporting a rise in their cost of living, value is the number one factor that drives choice in our stores.
“We will always make sure our products are competitively priced, but we can’t stop there.
“Obesity levels are rising among adults and children, and the health of our nation must also be at the top of our agenda.”
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said it has already axed multi-buy offers after changing its promotion strategy six years ago.
It stressed it will continue to push forward with curbs on unhealthy products despite changes to the Government’s original proposals.
“We know our customers in communities across the country are facing a cost-of-living crisis and want to continue to provide healthy, nutritious food for their families,” Mark Given, chief marketing officer at Sainsbury’s, said.
“Sainsbury’s is dedicated to making healthy choices more affordable and over the last year nearly 60% of our promotions were on healthier or ‘better for you’ choices.
“We are committed to continuing to follow the Government’s original HFSS promotional timelines and call on the rest of the industry to do the same.”
Kate Oldridge-Turner, head of policy and public affairs at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “The move by Tesco and Sainsbury’s to enable their customers to access nutritious and affordable food is welcome and it’s great that some retailers recognise the crucial role they play in providing our nation with healthy diets.
“It’s encouraging to see the tide of opposition against the Government’s delay on restricting BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) deals swelling and the next step should be stopping all price promotions on unhealthy foods.
“Hopefully, Government will reverse its decision to hold off on these important restrictions, finally putting the health of the nation’s children first.”