A complete U-turn on the government’s anti-obesity strategy might happen after ministers ordered a review into measures that included restricting junk food promotions and advertising.
It was announced in May that the rules on multi-buy and buy one get one free deals would be delayed by a year due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Regulations on unhealthy product placements are still set to go ahead this October.
The legislation had been met with opposition from companies, including cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s, which lost a high-profile legal challenge against the Department of Health and Social Care back in July.
Other restrictions that could be axed include a TV advertising ban on some products before the 9pm watershed, while calorie counts on menus in cafes, takeaways and restaurants may once again be removed.
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The government’s move was first reported in The Guardian, where it was stated that ministers and the new prime minister, Liz Truss, want to review the restrictions in light of the cost-of-living crisis.
Whitehall sources say the review is “deregulatory in focus” and could mean abandoning many of the anti-obesity policies implemented by Boris Johnson’s government.
According to one source, Officials at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities are said to be “aghast” at the idea of the new prime minister scrapping policies that have been agreed upon and approved by parliament.
According to projections, over 21 million individuals in the UK will be classified as obese by 2040, while an additional 42 million adults, or 71% of the adult population, will be overweight by the end of the next two decades.
Obesity reduces life expectancy and increases the chance of chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and at least 12 different types of cancer.
Katharine Jenner, Director of The Obesity Health Alliance, said: “We are deeply concerned. It would be reckless to waste government and business time and money rowing back on these obesity policies, which are evidence-based and already in law. These policies are popular with the public, who want it to be easier to make healthier choices.”
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During the Conservative leadership race, Truss pledged to scrap the multi-buy deal ban and junk food taxes.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Truss said: “Those taxes are over. Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.
“What people want the Government to be doing is delivering good roads, good rail services, making sure there’s broadband, making sure there’s mobile phone coverage, cutting the NHS waiting lists, helping people get a GP appointment.
“They don’t want the Government telling them what to eat.”